100th Anniversary of Holy Cross Church Building, I Cor. 1:18-25, 31
For the proclamation of the cross is, for their part, folly to those who are on their way to ruin, but, for our part, the power of God to us who are on the way to salvation. As it is written, “Let the one who glories, glory in the Lord.”
The second Sunday of Trinity on June 13, 1915 was a grand day here. Two dedication services in German and one in English were held. However, the day began with a brief service at the Temperance Hall. Then, with the leaders carrying the Bible, the liturgy books and communion vessels everyone walked to the new church. After another brief service at the church door, contractor Henry Eberhardt handed the key to Pastor Klein who unlocked the door and the congregation filed in.
The order of dedication calls for the words of Jacob, to be cited, “Surely the Lord is in this place: This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate to heaven.” The epistle from Revelation 21 announces, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Thus the baptized gathered in their new house of God, themselves dwelling places of the Holy Spirit, as we are today. Like those folks a century ago, we too are built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. The men took their places on the pulpit side, the women sat on the lectern side and the children were located in the balcony under the watchful eye of the teachers. They were part of that one great stream of saints in every time and every place; whether it be the church triumphant who have gone on to glory or we the church militant in our day or those of generations to come, all our glory found in the Jesus Christ and him crucified.
It is through Christ crucified that God has clothed us in love and acceptance, purified and set us apart for himself. We are marked and identified by God as his own, bearing the name of Christ; freed from bondage to sin, death and the devil. We are God’s precious people having Christ as our leader by day and by night. However, as it is so often among us, that in striving to serve him we stumble along the way, for we are the church not in glory, but still abiding under the cross.
Prior to the 150th anniversary of the congregation a member of the Caseyville congregation was working on the minutes written in German script. One day I happened to meet her out in front of the office area. She said, “I don’t think there is much use of going on. I’m up to 1910 and they’ve decided to return the money contributed for a new church.” I said, “See this building we’re standing beside? That was dedicated in 1915. Don’t give up yet.” The need to build a new church was suggested in 1902. In 1908 the voters decided to go ahead. Though that decision was rescinded two years later, the issue continued to simmer like a pot of coffee on the back of a wood cook stove. In the spring of 1913 John Schroeppel, a local brick maker, offered to give one-half of the bricks needed for a new church. What a deal. But…nothing. A year later he set a deadline of one month on his offer or he would withdraw it. Suddenly wisdom found a home in the men who had so long been stuck between Ja und Nein, Yes and No. The young men’s association offered their support; as did the Ladies Aid and the children collected their pennies and nickels. A flurry of activity followed and by October 1914 the cornerstone was ready to be set in place.
Wisdom also prevailed in the architecture of this century old building. The pie shaped seating arrangement has stood the test of time. Everyone on the sanctuary floor is within face recognition distance of the chancel and pulpit. If this edifice had been built in the rectangular, some of you would be sitting out in the parking lot, saying, “Who is that guy preaching, he seems familiar.” There is also wisdom dating back to 1848, when Pastor Friedrich Lochner founded the congregation and it was named Holy Cross. That name is a reminder of the symbol upon which Jesus, Son of God and son of man gave up his life so that we might be holy. Without the wisdom of the cross this facility would be no more than a building built with bargain bricks.
Hear again St. Paul, “We preach Christ crucified…who (is)…the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Therein is the wisdom of Holy Cross. But how can you put the words, “cross” “wisdom and power” and “holy” in the same sentence? The Greek word for foolish, is the root word for our word “moronic.” It’s moronic, it doesn’t make one bit of sense. Ah, but there is the key to the cross’s true meaning to you and me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “If I say where God will be, I will always find a god who is like me, is agreeable to me. But if it is God who says where he will be, that place is the cross of Christ.” The cross of Christ is a scandal, it makes hash out of all secular and religious attempts to make sense of God and world through human wisdom. The goal of our Christian life is not to be more spiritual, but to be more centered on the cross. Jesus was not crucified on an old rugged cross on a hill far away, but on heap of dirt near a main highway on the outskirts town, where gamblers toss dice for the clothes of the naked man hanging on the cross. A bit of macabre entertain. There is nothing sentimental about it. Jesus was not crucified on a grassy knoll, but on a barren skull shaped mound of a public execution ground. The cross was not crafted from the fragrant cedars of Lebanon, but of splinter filled poles with the stench of human dying filling the air; which was to God a fragrant offering.
The shame that came from our first parents eating the forbidden fruit is removed because Christ disdained the shame of death by a tree and has become the first fruit of a great harvest of salvation. In the cross of Christ God makes sinners saints, and thereby gives the members of Holy Cross the privilege of calling themselves holy declared so by God.
On such days as this the psalmist calls us to: “Sing to the Lord a new song for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” The psalmist may be looking back at God’s victory in the time of Moses rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt. When we look at the psalm in terms of Jesus, we see the wondrous deeds carried out by God who took on our flesh as a baby, whom the angel proclaimed to be the Savior, Christ the Lord; yet he was so weak he could but flee in his mother’s arms from the tyrant Herod. Years later he reached out to touch the untouchable and take their sin and uncleanness and infirmities into himself, as he has our own. On a Friday we call good, He stretched out that powerful right hand and holy arm on the cross where he was nailed in weakness. It is through such unexpected wisdom and weakness that God gained his greatest victory on Mt. Calvary and the empty tomb. Therefore, our last enemy, death, is left without victory and without sting, no longer able to kill, but merely to put us to sleep in Jesus until the trumpet blows and we arise, leaving the cemeteries empty and in shambles. Then we will not need this dwelling place of the Lord. We shall be with the Lord in glory where God almighty and Christ the Lamb will be our place of worship. Thus we will walk in the land of living forever and ever. But until then, let us glory in the Holy Cross of Jesus.