St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-18-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 11-18-2018

Through These Doors

(On the occasion of dedicating our new doors in memory of

G. Newton “Newt” Reitnour III)

Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 17:20-26

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I remember one of those awakening moments in my life, the kind that I believe we all have sometimes, from way back when I was but a child. It came upon me as I entered the old, one-room schoolhouse across the street from St. Peter Church that then was used as a social hall and Sunday-School classroom. Who knows how many times I passed through those doors before, but this time I noticed how the sandstone threshold wasn’t as flat as one might expect. In fact, it was dished out quite a bit, perhaps an inch or more, worn down from the hundreds, perhaps thousands of feet that had stepped on it going in and out over the nearly 100 years of its use.

It may not sound like any great epiphany, but remember, I was but a child, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, and to that young mind it was my first remembered awareness of life outside of my here-and-now; my first awakening to the fact that life existed in other times besides what I personally experienced.

In that moment, as happens with young developing minds, I paused to imagine all those children, in all those passed years, going in and coming out in the day-to-day routine of their school years, I envisioned them with dream-like images, carrying their books and lunch boxes, as they excitedly entered and joyfully exited, and I could even hear the chatter of their happy voices playing in the sunshine as they arrived and departed.

It was a wonder-filled moment!

From that point, such awareness expanded, over the years, to include the fact that I actually knew some of the adults those children of my imagination had become. Some were classmates of my own father in his high school years.

This new-to-me awareness, over time, expanded to include other situations in other locations, most notably the Church across the street where I vividly imagined the spirits of all those hundreds of men, women, and children, who entered for worship, baptisms, weddings, and funerals; I could almost hear them singing hymns, chanting creeds, and lifting prayers.

And this awareness grew over time to include, not only the many people, but their life situations as well. I became mindful of the fact that worshipers gathered there to pray for their country and the soldiers in times of war; to pray for the end of famine and economic depression; to celebrate victories and bountiful harvests; and to do the often hard work of securing the future of St. Peter’s Temple and the Christian Church as a whole.

And, with that newly sensed connection to the past, I grew to appreciate those who entered those doors so many years before me and the sacrifices they made to assure that I, who was not even born yet and they would never know, would have a place to worship God in comfort and safety.

To this day I stand in awe of that heritage. But my little mind wasn’t done growing yet in making all the connections. Eventually my awareness of those who lived before me in the past, and their effect on my present, expanded to include how the chain would continue into the future; how I would be one of the many who, having passed through those doors, would be a part of assuring that those not yet born, and whom I will never know, will also have a place to worship God in comfort and safety.

 

All of this growth, all of this awareness came to me out of that one moment when I noticed the wear in the threshold of that old schoolhouse entranceway. I had entered but I did not exit unchanged. All those school children who wore it down had entered but did not exit unchanged; all those who entered St. Peter Temple did not exit unchanged. In all cases some changes were small, yet others were great. Yet, I’m certain each one was life changing, expanding from one moment of awareness; one new awakening into a lifetime of growth, a chain of thoughts that became a part of who and what the one coming and going would be in the future and, in turn, how they would contribute to the generations yet to come.

Today, I stand here in St. Matthew’s Church with the same sense of wonder as I envision all those who have entered this building and insured that we have a place to worship God in comfort and safety.

To me many are nameless yet I can sense their presence and hear their voices echoed through those who are gathered here today in the flesh. A few I can name and I can vividly envision filling their special places in the pews; Carol, Dottie, Jim, Mrs. McCartney, Don to name a few… and of course… Newt, who we worthily memorialize today. None of them left here unchanged, and none left St, Matthew’s unchanged; their legacy lives on today, will remain tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows to come.

As we make our dedication today, I invite you to seek that sense of awe and wonder that comes with imagining the countless number that have passed through our entranceway before us, to acknowledge their contribution to what we have in our here-and-now, and to recognize how what we contribute today provides assurances for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, in generations yet to come who will enter and not leave unchanged. And by so doing, unite yourself as one, not only with those who stand by your side here-and-now, but also with those who came before you and those who will come after you; uniting yourself and all generations as one with Christ; who was, who is, and who always will be.

Amen

 

Note: The readings were selected to honor Newt’s memory.

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff–they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely e goodness and mercy f shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face; now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

 

John 17:20-26

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”