First Trinity parish, Pittsburgh, Penn. USA.
Remarks at 175th parish anniversary banquet; 22 January 2012
The Rev. Eric R. Andræ
Good afternoon. I am Pastor Eric Andræ, the campus pastor here at First Trinity. I would like to open my remarks with Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, from 2 Chronicles 6:
“[Solomon] said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk in My law as you have walked before Me.’ And now, O LORD God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David.
“But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive” (2 Chron. 6:14-21).
Indeed, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain God.
YET, today we celebrate his dwelling with us, the First German Evangelical-Lutheran congregation of Pittsburgh, for 175 years; and his dwelling in this specific place, Trinity Church, for 85 years. How can this be? How can he whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, how can he dwell in Pittsburgh, dwell here at First Trinity? How can God dwell with men on the earth? How can he dwell in water, in word, in bread and wine? How?
As true God and true man, that’s how. In Jesus Christ, God of God, incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, made man–in Jesus Christ, God dwells with man as Immanuel, God with us, so that WE then are blessed to DWELL in HIS HOUSE, WITH HIM!
By his preaching-and-absolving mouth, by his baptizing-and-name-putting hand, by his hearing-and-forgiving ears he dwells with men on the earth, dwells with us.
God Almighty, our Heavenly Lord, in mercy and love and grace, condescends to dwell with us here at First Trinity, and all places great and small, stunning and plain on the earth where his Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according the same Gospel.
Being a campus pastor is a joy; being a campus pastor at First Trinity for 11 years has been a great joy. One of the happy aspects of our ministry here is the unique context in which we serve not one, not two, but several universities in the area and region: today alone we have students in attendance from CMU, Pitt, Chatham, La Roche, Geneva, and Duquesne; we also have active students from Point Park University, who could not make it today.
But along with the joy there is also pain, especially the pain of saying good-bye to so many dearly beloved students every single year. My prayer, my certain hope is that – as they have contributed to this place – they also have received from First Trinity and carry some of this congregation – its people, its teaching and preaching, its Lord – into the varied corners of this nation and this world to immeasurable good for them and others. Let me give just one example, a very current one. With us for the very first time, today, is my brother in Christ, Athanase. He has just arrived from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Before coming to the U.S. he and his bishop looked at the web-sites of various Pittsburgh churches and his bishop said, “You should go to this one. To First Trinity.”
All the students through the years are a part of us; we are a part of them. Because God is with them, God with us, God with us all: for 85 years, for 175 years; here, out there; yesterday, today, and forever!
“A DAY in Thy courts: is better than a thousand elsewhere.”