The Funeral Service of Frieda Frischbutter (Translated – August 17, 2009)
The Funeral Words at the Graveside of Mrs. Frieda Frischbutter
Dear Mrs. Hahne,
(The funeral director asked me to accompany him to the grave. “A service is not necessary,” he said, “because no one knew her and no one is coming.” I called the women’s circle and Mrs. Hahne came along. She always helped me with worship in the senior citizen homes. For Frieda we did a full funeral service. In this service we experienced an incredibly powerful encounter with God.)
Together we now want to say goodbye to Mrs. Frieda Frischbutter, whom we have in our hearts, because we always visited her there in the senior citizen’s home at No. 8 Hammerstein Street, in order not to forsake and abandon this woman, not to leave her to herself. Now we are here to show our thankfulness for her life and her sorrows – under the sign of the cross – because no one else is here and we feel poor and forlorn, like forsaken creatures of God. How many die that forgotten, who have also even forgotten themselves – before they even died?
Let us take Romans 14. 7ff. for our text:
We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (7-9).
Before our eyes we see a human being very isolated and left to herself, although she could not bear herself, could not remember herself: she herself had even forgotten who she was. She was lonely and forsaken, without family or friends. Others were paid to take care of her or no one would have had anything to do with her.
But now this is not the case. We thank God that we are not completely lost. No one lives to herself when we accept the loving concern of the one to whom we belong, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has mercy and compassion for the forgotten of the earth.
That’s because it is precisely those whom the world forgets that God cannot forget. God has a big heart. To tell it like it is, God meets us and encounters us through the very least of these, his lost ones. That is how God worked it out so that no one is excluded and everybody experiences and gets a taste of God’s grace and compassion.
For us to get to know God, feel secure and protected, God enclosed the whole creation inside the law of love: and therefore God now encounters us in none other than dear Mrs. Frischbutter – and not through any one with more or some one who had a lot to give, who was together enough to be able to help herself and others.
Yet it is precisely this woman that was chosen by God to give us a taste of God’s love. We are now speaking of only the highest and greatest achievements of human life here on earth. Yes, through the life, suffering, and dying of this woman, and to her credit, we have now experienced something glorious!
If we grieve, we need to grieve for ourselves, we who fail to see God because God is hidden in love. Stuck in our old selves, we always want to live to and for ourselves, to live oriented to our own self, keeping an eye on our own interests and profit, because of which we fail to find and then forfeit the actual meaning of life, not purchasing the precious pearl of great price.
An abyss with an open mouth swallows human beings among us. People die so wretchedly and forsaken because we fail to see God’s plan and the meaning of our lives in the inhuman conditions that prevail in our society. No one wants to accept God’s call to live and die to the Lord, because we do precisely the opposite of what our Lord did; for to this end, our Lord Jesus Christ died and lived again – notice, it says, “he died” first – died to himself to live for others, in order to become the Lord of life and death, in order thus to be able to live out of God, rather than to live out of himself and to live his own life (apart from the concern for others).
(Here this little homily ends and I’m not sure if a few pages were lost or the words concluded orally. But for Mrs. Charlotte Peetz’ funeral that took place just three weeks later, I developed some of these thoughts further. The powerful encounter/ meeting/ rendez vous with God took place in the service at Frieda’s graveside, however.)
For Mrs. Charlotte Peetz, 29th of August, 1974.
Dear cousin and friends of the deceased,
For the last years of her life, Charlotte Peetz lived in the Red Cross Home and now she has passed away. I am so glad that you have come to participate in this funeral service, the celebration of her life, because often the forsaken of the earth are those who can do great things for us. We dare not forget the elderly languishing in our senior citizen homes and for that reason we gather together thankfully to think about this woman and show our gratitude for the God, who does not forget people, when we take up God’s assignment of love, and driven by God’s compassion, we search for, find, and visit the forgotten of the earth.
Our text comes from Romans 14:7-9. (See it above!)
In these homes the elderly folks live isolated and forsaken, left to languish by themselves, while we pay others to take care of them. But we thank, thee, O God, that you have sent us to show mercy and have compassion on the forgotten of the earth.
God has enclosed the creation inside the law of Love, so that no one is excluded, even the very least of these and most insignificant people of the earth. They, too are thereby included.
These are the ones, whom God has chosen, the ones who have nothing, who are broken and forsaken, who have been forgotten by their fellow neighbors for so long that they have even forgotten themselves, and it is precisely through them that God encounters us.
The very least and lost are chosen for this very high dignity. It is because of them that God moves among us today.
We have to grieve for ourselves. The abyss opens before us and how many people fall in! But we lift up our eyes to the hills, from where our help comes. It comes from God’s mountains of goodness, filling and overwhelming the evil abyss. Those who are not reached, slide into the abyss, but God’s good mountains comfort us while we continue to work in God’s assignment.
God is in us and with us, when God lives in us. The life of God in us is the veritable love and truth living in us. We cannot live out of ourselves.
Thus, in love God has decided, how we will meet and encounter him. Those who have been sent to carry out God’s assignments, God encounters in the following ways:
In the poor, we receive God’s riches
In the imprisoned, God’s freedom
In the confused, God’s clarity
From the lost, God shows us the way
From the mentally ill, the health of the Spirit
And from the dead, the fulfillment of life
These gifts come from the very least, whom God has thereby completely included in the plan for the creation.
The very least, which God enfolded into the divine plan of creation are probably not the poor or forgotten or the forsaken of the world, but the dead – but on the other hand, the dead can become very powerful. They can become so powerful that they can determine and decide everything among us “the living.”
No one lives to him or herself and no one dies to him or herself: that means firstly, we need each other. To become isolated and forgotten brings us into conditions of degradation, unworthy of human beings.
Secondly, God’s plan is to include all human beings in God’s love. No one is to be forgotten. The very least, the very poorest, those who have lost everything and are forgotten by everyone, are chosen by God for the gift of the divine encounter. Therefore, although these can have nothing to give us, we can receive the most important, the gift of the highest value on earth through them, namely, the encounter with the living God, the wonderful taste of God’s presence.
Thirdly, we are sent to reach people in the holiness of that encounter of the living God. The abyss is of two kinds: first, the mountains of the goodness and grace of God; and second, our evil abyss, which can in no way swallow up God’s good one. To God belongs the victory.
Farther Development of these Thoughts for the Funeral of Mrs. Emma Doede on October 15th 1974
I would like to read a word from the fourteenth Letter to the Romans for this occasion:
For no one lives to him or herself and no one dies to him or herself, (14. 7-9). (See full text above.)
We say goodbye to Mrs. Emma Doede today, confessing that we do not know much about her life. It was only a few times that we saw her in the senior citizen’s home, where she was always very sad. Then I was with her when she died. I put flowers beside her, but whether or not she saw them I do not know.
But we still want to hear God’s word thankfully, because it remains meaningful to speak at this time. We do not have to remain in silent grief.
Although people are so isolated here and seemingly suffer so much, for in our social conditions we are forced to live to ourselves, our visits and our concern for them remains meaningful. Because God is merciful and full of compassion, we are sent to the people who are the least important on earth, the forgotten, the isolated, those who live in utter misery.
God has chosen these people, through whom we receive the gift of meeting and encountering God. We can have a rendez vous with God through these, the forgotten and the least important people of the earth. It is in this way that God constituted the law of love so that all people would become included in God’s love. It is not from those that have the most that we receive the greatest and most precious gift possible here on earth. That possibility of receiving it comes only from the least of the earth. Indeed, it is only from the forgotten of the earth that it is possible to receive the good of the greatest value on earth. That gift is to feel and experience the very presence of God, in which the life of God is given us, and with the life of God in us, the veritable love of God dwelling in us.
It is interesting to think through in what ways the forgotten of the earth bring us presents:
From the poor, we receive God’s riches, etc.
(See the list above.)
In that kind of a surprise, I see what a wonderful God we have! How merciful and compassionate God is and how precious for us to treasure! Who would not lay down his or her life to serve our God? Who wouldn’t take up God’s call and assignment in order to get a taste of God’s presence? It is like seeing God in the faces of the needy as they wait for the one God sent to them with help.
The way Emma Doede came to belong completely to God, we want to as well. Amen.
Let us pray
For this human being, Emma Doede, we give you thanks and praise! That you have included us all in your love, we give you thanks. That you chose the least of these on earth to enfold us with your presence, we give you thanks and praise, because it shows how wonderful, Oh God, you are!
Increase and strengthen our faith, that in the assignment of your call of love, we can visit the least of the earth and become capable of sharing in their fate. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. May you guard, protect, and shelter our souls and that of the deceased. Amen.
Prayer at the grave
We thank you, Oh Lord our God, that you have overcome all the messengers of death and death itself through the love of your dear Son, Jesus Christ. Through him you redeemed and freed us from the powers of death, so that worry-free and without the dread of fear, our faith can become active in the love we share one with another. Receive the soul of Emma Doede. Lift her spirit up into your joy. Through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray.