Our theme for the 125th anniversary of Trinity Lutheran Church is “Built on the Rock the Church Shall Stand,” based upon the hymn of the same name. Admittedly, it is not a very original theme—other congregations, including this one, have used it before—but it is hard to think of a more appropriate theme. Trinity Lutheran Church in Jasper, Minnesota is built on rock. The building itself literally rests on the quartzite rock that is so abundant in the area. The foundation of the church building is made of this rock. More importantly, Trinity Lutheran Church in built upon the Rock, Christ Jesus Himself. He is the foundation of His Church of which this congregation is a part, and we are to build upon Him and His Word. Throughout her long history, the faithful pastors and parishioners of this congregation have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners in this community—in good times and in bad.
As I write this article, news has just come out of a huge fire at the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. While it seems they were able to save most of the structure and contents, the roof made of wood dried by the centuries was completely burned up and destroyed. The steeples and spires crumbled and fell. Regarding this catastrophe, one of my friends, Kelly Klages, reflected:
Preserve and conserve what you can. Don’t assume that what you take for granted will always be there, especially if it is neglected and unvalued. It takes the blink of an eye for a fickle bit of wind to change, and the effects can be devastating and irreversible. Say no to apathy. This is especially true for the things of faith. It is true for your own church and your own congregation.
This advice seems especially fitting on the occasion of Trinity’s 125th anniversary. Early in its history, this congregation experienced a devastating fire that destroyed the entire building. But within months, the people of this congregation had already built and dedicated the structure that we worship in today. It is important to look back and preserve the history and memories of a congregation and its people. We cannot assume that this church—the building or the congregation—will be around forever. But it is even more important is for us to remember why Trinity Lutheran Church was founded, why it was rebuilt, and why it continues to serve God’s people in this community.
Just before He ascended to the Father’s right hand, Jesus gave His disciples a mission and command: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). The Church of all times and all places is sent out to share the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ with the world, beginning at home. Toward this end the Lord gives us His Word and Sacraments. As you can see from the lists of baptisms, confirmations, Christian marriages, and Christian burials, the pastors and people of Trinity have been diligently at this work throughout the years. Many souls have been brought into the kingdom of God through water and Word. Many men, women, and children have been nurtured in the faith through God’s Word preached and taught in its purity, and many repentant sinners have received Christ’s body and blood given in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion for the forgiveness of their sins.
When you look back at the pictures from the history of Trinity, it might be easy to wistfully desire “the good ol’ days.” You see the pictures from the days when the pews were all full and the Sunday School and choir were bursting at the seams. You see pictures of young men and women who have moved away. I know it’s easy to think of that as Trinity’s loss, but I prefer to think of it as the kingdom’s gain. Many of those young men and women have gone on to be active members and leaders in other congregations across the state, the country, and even in different places in the world. Much like parents raise up their children to be responsible, godly adults so they can one day leave the nest and establish their own home, this congregation has raised up many men and women who serve the Lord and their neighbor in other locations in the ways that were taught and had modeled here at Trinity.
As for the future: How long will Trinity Lutheran Church be here? Nobody, but God knows. That’s true for all of us. But we do have Christ’s promise that as long as He sees fit to have His name proclaimed in this location, He will be with us. “Were we but two His name to tell, Yet He would deign with us to dwell With all His grace and favor” (LSB #645, v 3). We are not called to certain achievements or earthly goals; we are simply called to be faithful. Let this, then, be our prayer:
Grant then, O God, Your will be done,
That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
“I know My own; My own know Me.
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you always.” (LSB #645, v 5).
Pastor Robert E. Moeller, Jr.