Archive for the ‘ Funeral Sermons’ Category
A Memorial Service Homily delivered March 21, 2016
Psalm 23 The Divine Shepherd A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
he leadeth me beside still waters;
and restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff—
they comfort me.
Thou prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Romans 14:7-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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.
John 14:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus the Way to the Father
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I know that the deceased loved the scripture verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This verse is the good news in a nutshell; the good news that our faith in Christ promises us eternal life, which begins with our baptisms. This is also the promise of God for the deceased and in which promise she lived and died. As the scripture states, she may have died, yet shall she live, because with Christ she will be raised up from the dead and become alive in God, who is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for all who entrust themselves to our heavenly Father.
That is why even while walking through the “valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil” because we will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Now the “shadow of death” is the fear that it casts over our lives. But when we believe in God, then we exclaim: “Christ is raised from the dead! So death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? So rather than living in the shadow of death, we live in the sunshine of the Resurrection, in which goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, while we anticipate the joy of dwelling in the House of the Lord hereafter.
Now we should not think that Jesus’ Father’s House, as we imagine a house, is filled with mansions. Maybe houses could fit inside mansions, but mansions? How can they be inside a house? Jesus uses the word “house” to designate the whole realm of heaven in which God reigns. We might think of it like the White House standing for our whole country. The title “Pharaoh” is old Egyptian for the house of the king, meaning his reign over all Egypt. Think of the house of David. A house can stand for a dynasty, a rule, a realm. So Christ has gone before us to his Father’s heaven and there he is preparing a place for the deceased and for you and me. While on earth, Jesus complained that “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.” And that is why he prepares mansions for those who believe in him up in heaven; mansions to which those in Piedmont cannot compare, nor Trump’s Mar-a-lago, his mansion in Florida, because eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can any heart imagine, the home Christ is preparing in heaven for those who love him and are called to his purpose.
Christ compares suffering and dying to the labor, the contractions of a woman in child-birth. We suffer and die, but then experience the birth, which is made out of trust and faith, by which we enter heaven. Martin Luther of old says, that that is why the death of God’s saints is called Natale, or their birth. Now compare the experience of the baby in its mother’s womb to the great big world it enters when it is born. The baby in the womb cannot imagine this world, this heaven and earth that a-waits it. Martin Luther said that this world is as small as a mother’s womb when compared to the incredibly more spacious new heaven and new earth in the mansions of God’s heavenly house, the place where God reigns.
So let us not live to and for ourselves or die to ourselves, but point our whole lives toward Jesus Christ and our neighbors. When in faith we point our whole lives to Jesus Christ our Lord, Christ becomes the life of our lives, the strength of our strength, the light by which we see light.
When we belong to Jesus Christ our Lord, God lives our lives, and that means here and now after our baptisms. How wonderful that the deceased was baptized. How wonderful that she accepted communion. The day before she died, she still gave me a great big smile and waved goodbye.
Therefore she also stands on the rock-solid promises of Christ and she also lived and died in the promises of God. Because Christ died and lived again, so that he could be the Lord of both the dead and the living. So the deceased may have died in that room of the nursing home, but she is now alive in God and someday we will all be reunited again. ““For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Dear God, our heavenly Father, we love you and are called to your purpose. We thank you for this your promise. Amen.
Memorial Service for a Biker in 2016
with a Biker’s Song
Text Mark 12:18-27
Believing in another life after we die is very difficult for some people, but not so much for others. One old pastor told me, “It will just be turning a page in a book and coming to a new chapter.”
In the Bible times when Jesus ministered, there were two parties, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were somewhat like our Republicans and Democrats, but they held different religious beliefs, our parties are political.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and life after death, while the Pharisees did. As children in Sunday School, we learned: the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but the Sadducees did not – that’s why they were so sad-you-see.
Really it all depends on our belief in God. If we believe that God created us, called us into existence, then God can call us into existence again. We say, “Dust to dust and ashes to ashes,” but God made us from the dust; we are made out of stardust, and he was as well – and like the objection of the Sadducees in our text, he didn’t have seven wives. And to whom we are married in that life is no trouble at all, because marriage is no more. After we die we become like the angels of heaven, Jesus says.
Now Jesus is special and when he says there is an afterlife, then he should know, because he came down to us from heaven. He left the house of heaven with its many mansions to be with us. (Here “house” stands for the whole kingdom.) In our text he says, when God spoke with Moses from the burning bush, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And he is not a God of the dead, but of the living.” Today we would say, “The God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Rebekah, and the God of Jacob and Leah and Rachel.” And Jesus says that they are alive in God.
So make God your God, so that Jesus can talk about the God of Joe and Liz, the God of Jane and Bob, the God of Barbara, Shawn, the God of Billy, because it is not only a matter of life after death, but also a wonderful life lived in the light of God right now, from this day on.
We thank God that he was baptized into Jesus Christ in God’s name! So he also lived his life in the promises of God. That is why he could be such a loving father and why he is loved by so many friends.
Don’t let the strange stories in the Bible put you off. They can be hard to understand. Like Jesus walking on water? We can ask, “What is that all about?” Well, water stands for chaos and if you have seen the damage a flood makes, you’ll understand how water, the sea, the ocean stands for chaos.
But Jesus walked on that chaos and brought peace and comfort. Jesus overcomes the chaos in our lives.
Whenever I tried to overcome my sins myself, I’ve never been able to. But Jesus can do it. Jesus can overcome our addictions, our failures, the trouble we bring on ourselves or get into. Everybody has got to be trouble for somebody. When we are trouble for Jesus, we don’t have to despair, because Jesus knows how to get us out of trouble.
When I was at the end of my rope and I cried to God, “Where are all the promises you made to me? I don’t see any of them coming true.” And I listed all my failures. Nothing in my life was coming out right. I remembered what a counselor said to me, “The resurrection is our business.”
Well, I got up out of bed and it was not by my own strength, because I realized that when I had come to my end, I could live out of the strength of God. So when life has pushed us as far as we can go and we can’t take another step, then because all of our strength is gone, we have to live out of God’s strength, who is the strength of our strength.
Sometimes we have to cry out to God, “Where are all the promises you made to me?” crying out in prayer from the anguish of our hearts, to hold God to them. That way God keeps them to us. And God keeps his promises even though we are sinners. For God must have loved sinners; he made so many of us.
But when we start praying to God, trusting God, and realizing that God loves us, is rooting for us and searching for us, if we are lost, then you just watch how things change for you and how wonderful things start happening for you.
So among all you Harley Davidson bikers, it’s wonderful that we celebrate his life. And we trust that he is now alive in God and that we will all meet again someday. Thus let’s grieve, but not like people who have no hope.
“On Christ the solid rock I stand!” “Put you hand in the hand of the Man who stilled the water! Put you hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee.” And Jesus will lift you up and you will be so glad that he lifted you and me! God is unimaginably greater than we are and the way God made us out of dust, God can take his dust and ashes and raise him up again on the other side of the Jordan – on that beautiful shore. Amen.
This is a Biker song that I first heard sung by the Sun Mountain Fiddler, Dick Solberg and it was written by Rogie Ray. These words are the censured version in the way I changed them, figuring this must be the way the censored version would go:
“Ride Hard for the Sun” by Rogie Ray of Nashville
My Daddy was a jockey-shifting biker
My Momma was the leader of the train.
I grew up with my right hand on the throttle
And my left hand full of pipe-dreams JID.
But I never in my life went looking for trouble,
but trouble had a way of finding me.
But when I ride, I ride hard for the sun. (Yea!)
And when I die, I’ll die hard by the law of the gun.
And you know
It makes no difference to me,
no difference to me.
Bury me with my brothers, (Yea!) bury me with my colors
in this old Harley D. (Repeat)
So I pierced my ears and tattooed my arms
And wrote, “Back off” up under my lip.
Now you might think that’s crazy and you might think I’m hip.
But if you think it’s tough that’s your tough luck;
If you don’t, get out of the way,
Because the school I went to
Didn’t teach us how to play.
I really have nothing to lose,
but the scars, my dues, and the rules
I choose to die by or just live one more day. Refrain.
 I have no idea what “JID” means or if I misheard the words. Can someone help? I heard this song from Dick Solberg, the Sun Mountain Fiddler Bootleg Tape, “No Holds Barred.” peterkrey
For the Funeral of Matthias R. L. Krey, Pastor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, written September 12, 2013 at 37,000 feet on a Spirit Airliner, by Peter, his younger brother, (Undelivered).
The Rainbow over the Heaven of Grace
Text: For no one lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For 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 belong to the Lord. For to this end, Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)
I know that Matthias clung to his Lord and knew that he belonged to him – so that with all his longing he is now belonging with Christ Jesus in the many mansions of our wonderful Father’s heavenly House.
Like at birth, the labor contractions make it painful for a mother to bring a new life into the world, suffering, however, quickly forgotten at the joy of a new life brought into the world; so it is painful and a hard time full of suffering, when we pass from this world into the eternal life of the next, then rejoicing among the children of God, at becoming one of the saints in light, a new morning star among the starry hosts of heaven.
In the words of our Lord during his earthly existence, “God is not a God of the dead but of the living.” The way Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not to forget: Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah are alive in God, so Matthias, your husband, dear Joan, your father, grandfather, and our brother, Matthias, is now alive in God, singing God’s praises with the three of your children who have gone before, with James, Ruthie, Johanna, Tirzah and Al, Bill, Vincent, Charlie, and our parents as well.
So precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints! (Psalm 116:15) Because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Matthias will also be raised to join with all the saints. Surely we are all sinners, too, but God sees us through rose-colored glasses, that is, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ alive in us, and that sight forgives us all our sins, because of the blood that Jesus Christ shed for Matthias and also for us.
There is a deeper this-worldly sense of dying and living to the Lord Christ. In the German language it comes through better: keiner lebt sich selber. No one lives herself or himself. Not we ourselves, but our lives are lived by another or by another force, that can be, for example, by the powers and principalities. Those who are baptized, however, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, the Christ become their life in them. Yes, Christ lives their lives and it is easy to see how Christ lived Matthias’ life and with bountiful and abundant grace worked through him, bringing God’s Word into the hearts of many people, so that they too could experience the new birth by water and blood to become children of God.
Because Matthias did not live himself but Christ lived his life, Christ who is the light of the world, faith, hope, and love like a radiant rainbow of grace will bring fulfillment of God’s promises to the people Matthias served, because he was a true and faithful servant of Jesus Christ.
So in the true faith that in God’s grace we receive by hearing God’s Word, we can all have Christ live our lives day by day into the blessed Gospel of our Savior, the Lord of the dead and the living, so that the promises of God become fulfilled among us in the miracles God performs here and hereafter.
Because the life of Christ in living us is not merely life, but the life that overcomes death, it is love. Death is very real, but the almighty love of God will raise up those whose lives were oriented toward Christ and like Matthias, those who by faith have lived Christ. The light of Christ’s life in us bends a rainbow from heaven to the earth, inscribed on the tear-drops of grace so that faith, hope, and more love; joy, righteousness, justice, and peace spread across God’s sky in the sunset and sunrise of the new heaven of God’s grace.
 For Martin Luther’s description of the “heaven of grace” see Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), pp. 138-40.
Words at the Memorial Celebration for Karl Barth on December 14th 1968 in the “Münster” in Basel
by Helmut Gollwitzer
“I’m for you, I am your friend” – that’s how he summed it all up one time, that’s how he heard the voice coming out of eternity, from out of a place in time, from the human being Jesus, from out of the “ineffable reality of Jesus Christ,” as he once wrote. That’s what he heard the living Jesus saying and in him the living God, and so he passed it on, saying it to others. It gave him material to think about, as soon as he understood the opposition that the friendship of God for human beings ran against the voices of the abyss, of death, loneliness; and against the voices of wrath, of conscience, of guilt. It threw a light of great compassion and mercy into the darkest places of the earth, gave the impulse for friendship and friendliness [needed] for living in unfriendly times; and gave material for thick books, countless essays, booklets, and sermons, inexhaustibly until the last evening of his life, for this bottomless, not to be thought out Immanuel: “I’m for you, I am your friend,” whom he has now finally reached.
“Where are we going?” is the way he persistently questioned visitors in his last years, in order to receive help from them for better understanding of the hope grounded for us in Immanuel and he himself answered from what he had heard out of the gospel: in the understanding of Immanuel, who in a moment quiets and fulfills everything, quiets the burning hunger for immortality and reconciles us fully with the limit, with the finitude of this, but once happening life, and fulfills the promises that have become ours, through the revelation of the one, who indeed had thought everything out well: the cross of his Son as well as the sufferings of Job, the loneliness experienced by an old Theology professor, like the dancing of each mosquito in the sunlight. There are no Auschwitz and no Vietnam, without what was suffered through and fought out on Golgotha in advance. What are we heading for? We are headed toward the revelation of the one, who in advance has made right what could never be undone and what could never be made right again: the children’s shoes of Auschwitz and the burned skin of the children of Vietnam and skeleton of the child from Biafra – which only through God and God’s own suffering could be made right again. From this already-in-advance, he was walking with Jesus Christ toward the day of revelation, and all his teaching in the Church was a teaching of the praxis of constantly beginning again on the way of this forward looking being on the way.
“The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). That the Eternal Truth freely determines and openly declares itself to be the friend of human beings, that it does not want to be against human beings, but be unconditionally for them, – hardly one of the Christian theologians has dared to proclaim that in such an unqualified way, the Α and Ω, the atonement of all, so that all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of which the other theologians felt they had to remind before all, now only appeared in brackets before this unconditional: “Jesus lives – and with him also I”, [and] this world of humanity also with him.
Looking forward fifty years ago, who would have ever dared to say, that this one who from standing against any friendly attempt of making the cross of Christ inoffensive, proclaimed eternity to be the crisis of time, as the wrathful, vertical in-breaking of the cross from above, crossing up our possibilities; would become the great preacher of unconditional and insuppressible grace? Looking back, it now no longer appears like a break: in his early expressions, we already notice the Mozart-tones of thankfulness for the resurrection’s song of praise, and only where the contradiction of the ‘no’ was experienced, the deep ‘yes’ [planted] under the ‘no’ becomes the discovery that releases awe, which for him became the life-long ground, from which his theology emerged.
To hear the Gospel as the voice of the living God, as a friend’s voice, makes [a person] into a friend of people. The word “friend,” like hardly another, characterizes him, from whom we now take our leave “for a little while” (John 16:16). Standing under the friendship of God, he was allowed to experience a great deal of friendship in his life and turned to many with friendship. “Bergli” as a true place of friendship remains bound up with his name. We Germans were privileged to have experienced the friendship of his that had sprung out of the philanthropy of God; privileged, because he worked for 14 years with us as a professor in Göttingen, Münster, and Bonn, and that in his characteristic openness and resolve, immediately made our problems his own. He certainly could not count on being thanked from all sides in the face of the broad mentality in our country at that time, but now many in our country are with us in their thoughts with great thanks, for the one from whom we have gathered to take our leave. What he tried to introduce as Swiss experience, was often enough used as evidence to rid and reject his Swiss “inability to understand.” Finally through Schub he was ushered out, and even the Confessing Church, which was unthinkable without him, did not fight enough to keep him working with us. But where have we Germans, who like so much to circle around our own problems and illuminate the whole world with them, had a place in Switzerland or anywhere else in the world, like here in this book-filled room – first in Albanring, then in Pilgrim Street, and at last in Bruderholz – a place, in which we were so welcome, in which we were listened to so carefully, where our questions and concerns were so attentively [heard and] thought about with us?
He places the word with which I began, as a very peculiar and valid summation of the Gospel, beyond the scope of that time, into the mouth of Jesus Christ, as a gospel for the Germans. At that time, in that lecture, “The Germans and Us,” in January 1945, the first one that we Germans could read, there he was and he himself came again, ready to sacrifice and do without, bringing us material and spiritual gifts, giving the best proof of his friendship. The call of Jesus Christ: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden!” he translated at the time for us: “Get over here you unsympathetic, you evil Hitler-rogues and Hitler-girls, you brutal SS-soldiers, you evil Gestapo scoundrels, you sad compromisers and collaborators, you people of the herd, you who so long and so patiently and stupidly ran behind your so-called ‘Führer.’ Get over here you guilty and you accomplices of the guilty, who now experience and have to experience what your deeds are worth! Get over here, I know you well, but I do not ask who you are and what you did. I only see that you are at your end and for good or evil, you have to start from the beginning all over again. I will revive you. Precisely with you, will I myself again, from your zero point, with you begin a-new. I am for you. I am your friend” (“For the Recovery of German Essence,” Stuttgart, 1945, p. 35 f.).
At the time he often spoke to us about the great opportunity the Germans now had because of the fact that they had failed so completely taking an evil way and now new possibilities stood open before us. What did we make of the offer given us? How seldom countries perceive God’s offer of grace in the hour of trial! That at least the Church would recognize, perceive, and accept the offer [of grace], for that he fought. But he himself was an offer [of grace] for the Church, this valiant man, and none of us know another to match him, this thorough going and complete Christian and theologian. They are not all theologians, to use a favorite expression of his, in a night in which all the cats are gray. There are chosen instruments among them, for whom the issue is not theological systems, directions, and differences of opinion, but who represent [another] chance for the Church, that can be grasped or failed, through whom a whole period of the way of the Church becomes decided. With the Barmen Declaration, written by him completely awake, while others slept, we have a formulation of such a decision, but it has to be carried out on a daily basis. We now cry after him like the forsaken Elisha: “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” “And he saw him no more”, it says there (2 Kings 2:12). We would have had more need of his counsel, his reproof, his criticism, his instruction, his encouragement, his heart-felt nature. He, however, our friend, thank God! with his Christomonist, Christological theology, in advance, had already pointed away from himself to the Resurrected One, who goes forward from victory to victory through the dark places of also this century and says to us: “I’m for you, I am your friend.”
(A Separate Printing from “Karl Barth, 1886-1968”, Zürich: EVZ-Verlag)
A Funeral in Coney Island (1977)
Let us take a passage from Romans for our text:
None of us live to ourselves or die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord; so living or dying, we belong to the Lord. Therefore Christ died and was raised to life again, so that he might become Lord of both the living and the dead (Romans 14:7-9).
We all belong to the Lord and heaven is where we actually live and find our rest.
We are visitors on earth. All of life can be gray and empty, but God’s divine self offers to live in us. God’s life in ours is genuine life in all its rich colors, because through God’s love, a rainbow of promises radiate over us and through us to others.
God has appointed a rendez vous with each of us and this is how God keeps it – with those who respond to the calling to be for others:
In the poor, God lets us experience riches,
In his prisoners, we appreciate God’s freedom,
In the confused, the direction for our lives,
From those that stray, the path of righteousness,
Among the lost, God shows us the way,
From the mentally ill, the health of the Spirit,
And here by the dead, the fulfillment of life.
By the Law of God’s love, through the very least, we receive the most precious gifts, and what’s more – a rendez vous with God-Self, so that no one is excluded; yes, all become included in God’s plan of salvation.
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.
Ansprache für die Bestattung von Frau Elsa Haack am 2. September, 1974, die Sanct Annen Kirche zu Dahlem
Liebe Verwandte und Freunde der Verstorbene,
Wir versammeln uns Heute morgen weil Frau Elsa Haack von hinnen gegangen ist in die Ewigkeit. Wir wollen uns zusammen setzten hier öffentlich, um uns mit ihren Tod selbst zurecht zu finden. So gesagt ist unser Ziel zu hoch gesteckt, aber wir möchten doch von ihr Abschied nehmen, wissend dass für uns sterblichen Menschen es ein endgültiger Abschied sein muss. Wir hoffen auf Gott, der Diesseits und Jenseits der harten Todes Grenze waltet, und wollen ihn auch in dieser Stunde danken für seine Gnade, denn unser Leben bekommen wir aus seiner Hand, und ihm sind wir gehörig, und auch nach dem Tode nicht verloren. Daher wollen wir auch ein Wort betrachten, ein Gottes Wort.
Aus Römer 14 7 ff. lautet unser Text :
Denn unser keiner lebt sich selber,
und keiner stirbt sich selber.
Leben wir so leben wir dem Herrn;
sterben wir so sterben wir dem Herrn.
Darum wir leben oder sterben,
so sind wir des Herrn.
Denn dazu ist Christus gestorben
und wieder lebendig geworden,
dass er über Tote und Lebendige Herr sei. (14.7-9)
Was sagt dieser Text? Obwohl wir uns das Gegenteil hier auf Erden vortäuschen, keiner lebt sich selber und keiner stirbt sich selber. Aus der Liebe Gottes leben wir. Unser Leben und Dasein sind in sein ewiges Dasein gepflanzt. Und darin können wir Trost finden. Denn im Sterben sehen wir wie wir selbst verfallen und vergessen oft dass unser Leben eigentlich nicht aus uns selbst kommt, sondern aus Gott.
Wir leben und sterben auf dem Herrn hinzu. Er ist unser Ziel. Er ist Endpunkt, aber darin auch unser Anfang: unser A und O, und von ihn wissen wir, dass Er ein grosser Erlöser und Befreier ist.
Der Tod kann diese Glaubens-Tatsache nicht verändern. der Tod als letzter Feind ist besiegt und gefangen genommen worden und muss jetzt den Fürst des Lebens dienen. Wenn wir manchmal sagen, ihr Tod hat für sie eine Erlösung bedeutet, dann meinen wir dass ihr Herrn Jesus Christus sie erlöst hat. Der Tod von selbst ist ein Greuel und kann uns nicht erlösen. Denn wir wissen dass wir die Ewigkeit gehören und der Tod wiederspricht diese Glaubens-Tatsache – in solch einer lauten Stimme hier auf Erden, dass wir Angst haben es zu glauben. Darum wir leben oder wir sterben gehören wir dem Herrn der Ewigkeit, Diesseits und Jenseits dieser harten Grenze.
Wenn wir versuchen diese ewige Seite in uns zu leugnen, dann versuchen wir nur Teilweise zu sein wer wir sind. Realistisch wird man. Es gibt eine infantile Art wo wir nicht unser eigenem Sterben und daher begrenzte Existenz akzeptieren können. Es gibt auch eine primitive Art wo wir unsere Veränderung und die Veränderung unsere Verhältnisse in den Jenseits hineinschieben, ohne unser Diesseits ernst zu nehmen. Aber so realistisch wie man sein kann, beseht unserer Verwandsschaft mit dem ewigen Gott, der Vater unsers Herrn Jesus Christus.
Wir können getrost in diesem Rahmen die sterbliche Elsa Haack gedenken….Und jetzt hat der dunkele Engel nicht seine Vorzeichen geschickt, sondern er selbst ist gekommen und hat sie von den Menschenkindern weggerissen.
Aber dazu ist Christus gestorben und wieder lebendig geworden um Herr über die Toten und die Lebendigen zu sein. Vor seiner gewaltigen Liebe, uns am Kreuz bewiesen, kann der grausamer Tod nicht Stand halten. Er kann uns nur unsere Grenzen mitteilen um uns realistisch zu machen und dadurch fähiger machen aus Gott zu leben, und nicht aus uns selbst. Daher können wir getrost sein und auf die Lebensfülle bei unseren Herrn hoffen. Nicht nur für Elsa Haack, dessen Sarg Heute vor uns steht, sondern auch für uns selbst, die wir solch Liebe brauchen um die schmerzhafte Grenzen, die wir ausgesetzt sind, akzeptieren zu können.
 Manchmal möchte man am Ostern sagen, ihr kommt zur Kirche um vom ewigen Leben zu hören, wie eine gewisse religiöse Lebensversicherung. Das ist nicht hier zu bekommen. Leute die ihr eigenes Leben und Sterben nicht ernst nehmen und Gott auch nicht, wollen infantil glauben, dass sie immer und ewig leben werden. Doch werden wir all sterben. Wir haben Tage, Stunden, Wochen, Manate, Jahren. Die die das nicht wahr haben wollen, wollen eigentlich Gott sein. Sie wollen nicht Gott gegenüber stehen in der schmerzhaften Unterschied zwischen sich selbst und Gott, zwischen Menschen und Gott, der Unsterbliche. Sie wollen eigentlich aus sich selbst leben.