First Sunday after Trinity
June 7, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
Revised and updated from sermon given in 2011
In the name of + Jesus.
An itinerarium was a sort of ancient Roman roadmap that was not to scale, but gave a list of cities and villages on a journey with approximate distances between them. We get our word itinerary, or a list of scheduled stops, from that same word.
When the monastic orders were in full swing in the medieval Church, itinerarium was also the name given to the office of prayer that was prayed before travel. During the Reformation, Martin Luther did away with much of the monastic life, but he was quite fond of their order of prayers. The Office of Itinerarium has come down to us in the form of Responsive Prayer 2.
The closing prayer “Before Travel” reads,
Lord God our Father, You kept Abraham and Sarah in safety throughout the days of their pilgrimage, You led the children of Israel through the midst of the sea, and by a star You led the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. Protect and guide us now in this time as we set out to travel. Make our ways safe and our homecomings joyful, and bring us at last to our heavenly home, where You dwell in glory with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Here Abraham and Sarah are listed at the prototypical faithful travelers, for remember that God had commanded Abraham to leave his homeland and promised him a land where He would make him a great nation.
Abraham had traveled as God had commanded him, but in time, he did not see the fruits of God’s promises. After this the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision. “Don’t be afraid, Abram,” He said. “I am your Shield. Your reward is very great.” “Lord GOD,” Abram asked, “what will You give me? I’m leaving no children, and Eliezer of Damascus will get the property of my household. You have given me no children,” Abram added, “so a member of my household will get my property.” (vv 1-3 AAT).
For Abraham, it wasn’t looking like God’s promises were taking shape. He was really getting up in years (he was already 75 when he first set out on his journey). And still he had no child. It’s kind of hard to have descendents as numerable as the stars or sand on the seashore if you don’t even have one.
Because Abraham was not seeing results in his time, he made a few deviations from God’s itinerary. When a famine struck the Promised Land, he took his wife and household to Egypt to find food. While there, he decided that he better lie about his wife (who was beautiful) so that Pharaoh would not kill him and take her as his own. Abraham told them she was his sister, and she was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Abraham also fared pretty well in the deal, because he also got rich off of Pharaoh’s favor.
When Sarah was discovered to be Abraham’s wife—by God’s intervention—Pharaoh send them all away from his land. But while in Egypt, Abraham’s wife apparently picked up a servant by the name of Hagar. Because Abraham and Sarah still had no child, Sarah decided to give Hagar to Abraham as a second wife. At 86 years old, Abraham had a son, whom he had gained by his own means.
It’s often that we take up Abraham’s methods in our own lives. God has given us an overabundance of promises, but we want Him to keep them on our time. Psalm 27 says, Wait for the LORD to help you. Be strong and full of courage. Yes, wait for the LORD, but that is an easier word to hear than to live.
We are impatient. If we don’t see God’s blessings right away, or in the way that we’d like them seen, we either despair of God’s grace or we take matters into our own hands. Either way, we despise God’s Word and promises.
If you take a close look at your life, you are bound to see numerous places where you’ve distrusted His promises. Perhaps you’ve felt the pinch of this tight economy, and pulled back a little from your offering to the Lord. Or maybe you’ve been praying for a feuding family member, but grew impatient and cut off all communication. Or possibly you’ve begged the Lord to heal the emotional pain of a lost loved one, but continue to medicate yourself with drugs and alcohol just to cover the pain.
Just as Abraham sinned when he would not wait for the Lord to act on His promises, so also every sin that you commit can be traced back to your distrust in God to be faithful to His promises. And so you take steps to accomplish for yourself what God has promised to do for you, and you end up worse than when you began.
Even though you are faithless, God is faithful. When He speaks, He will do what He says because He cannot lie.
With Abraham, God gave His promise years before He gave the fulfillment. And when Abraham saw the beginning of its fulfillment, it still wasn’t much to behold. God had promised a great nation, but all Abraham had was his Isaac. But through this one son—the son of the promise—God did bring about a great nation. For Isaac’s son was Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. A half a millennium later, the host of Israel marched out of Egypt and headed again for the land that God promised to Abraham and his descendents.
Yet God’s promise had an additional dimension to it. Not only did He create a great nation through Abraham by the flesh, but He has created an even greater nation by the Spirit. Works had brought Abraham his son Ishmael, but faith had brought him his son Isaac. Abram believed the LORD, and so the LORD counted it to him as righteousness (v 6 AAT).
Thus, everyone who believes in the Lord’s Word and promise is a son or daughter of Abraham. The poor man Lazarus had gained nothing by his own works, but when he died the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. By faith, Lazarus received the promise of the feast to come, and sat at the great banquet with one of our fathers in the faith.
Yesterday was the Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, that document that the first Lutherans put together to confess the faith. The fourth article has been called the article upon which the Church stands or falls—the article of justification.
Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3and 4).
God has given you an abundance of promises—yet they all rest on the promise that He forgives your sins for the sake of Christ. Because of this forgiveness, you are received into His favor. This is your righteousness: the righteousness of Christ, bestowed upon you. Believe it, for Christ’s sake because
Faith Is What Counts for Righteousness
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jacob W Ehrhard
 AC IV.