Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, October 04, 2008

In Memoriam +Robert Paul Pueschel 1919-2008+

In Memoriam +Robert Paul Pueschel 1919-2008+
October 4, 2008
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3

Dear Rosemary and Tom, Elizabeth, Vivian, family members, friends, and members of our church family: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hear again the Word of the Lord from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:1-3; ESV): “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Beloved in the Lord, as we run the race that is set before us, the race that is our Christian, baptismal life on earth, the death of a loved one, like Bob, can be a major hurdle. When we encounter such hurdles, it can be hard to run this race with endurance. For death is always tragic, even the death of one we know to be with Jesus even now in perfect bliss, as Bob is, beholding the face of his Savior. Death is always tragic, even though we confess that death is not the end, that Bob is not only in heaven even now, but that our Lord Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life, will raise him from the dead on that last great Day. Death is always tragic, even when it is expected, even when the loved one who has died lived a long and full earthly life, and even when death brings relief of our loved one’s temporal suffering. Death is always tragic, because death is an enemy, the last enemy to be defeated (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is not natural, despite popular opinion. We were not created to die, but to live eternally in the righteousness and perfection and fellowship of God. Death is therefore the relentless reminder that that righteousness, that perfection, that fellowship of God has been broken by man, that ever since the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, humanity is enslaved in sin. We are by nature sinful and unclean, and as a result, we sin against God and our fellow man in thought, word, and deed. Death is the inevitable result of sin. St. Paul writes, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But, beloved, our Lord Jesus has reversed the curse of sin and death. Dying in our place, for our forgiveness and salvation, He has paid the wages of sin in His death on the cross, and covered us with His blood. And Christ is risen. He has conquered death. Thus “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So when we come face to face with the death of a loved one, as we have today with Bob’s death, faith confesses the reality that is as yet unseen. Christ is risen. Death is dead. Bob will rise again.

Bob was a sinner. He would be the first to tell you that. Bob was always brutally honest with himself and with others about his sin, and about our common sinful condition. And as a result, Bob knew that unless Jesus returned first, he would have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. And so he has. But Bob is baptized into Christ. His sins have been washed away, and in Christ, Bob is a new creation. Therefore he is in heaven, and he is among the great cloud of witnesses, the saints of God, who point us to Jesus Christ. Bob would tell you today, dear brothers and sisters, that as you stumble under the weight of sin and over the hurdle of death, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, for He is the author and finisher of your faith. He is your Savior. For the joy set before Him, the joy of the resurrection, the joy of His exaltation to the right hand of the Father, the joy of a redeemed and restored humanity, our Lord Jesus Christ endured the cross. He ran the race all the way to Golgotha. There He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him. There He paid our debt to God. There He freed us from sin. There He gave Himself into the death of a criminal, became a curse, cursed by God, forsaken by His heavenly Father, for us, for Bob, for you, for me. As Bob would say many times to me and to his friends and family with tears in his eyes, “Imagine how He could do that for us. What love the Savior must have for us.” And all of this for our forgiveness and eternal life.

My visits with Bob over the last 2 ½ years always strengthened my faith as much, if not more, than they strengthened his. Throughout his earthly life, Bob pointed us to Jesus, told us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. I remember one occasion, I was visiting Bob to bring him the Lord’s Supper. It was right after confession and absolution. Bob had just heard the words, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.” And he said to me, “Pastor, I can almost feel the sins draining out through my toes.” So tightly did Bob cling to his Savior, and the forgiveness of sins bought by His blood. On another occasion, I believe my first visit with him after he had moved to Railside, we had just received the Sacrament together and I asked Bob if there was anything else I could do for him while I was there. “No,” Bob said. “You’ve done the most important thing for me. You’ve given me the forgiveness of sins.” Of course, I’m just Christ’s servant. Jesus Christ Himself brought Bob the forgiveness of sins that day and each day. And in this way Bob taught me what it means to be someone’s pastor. I wasn’t with Bob that day just to be a friend, a pal, although that may also be the case. I wasn’t there to watch the Tigers game with him, although he often had the game on when I arrived. I was there as a called and ordained servant of the Word to bring Christ and the forgiveness of sins to Bob. And as Bob said, that is the most important thing. There Christ stripped Bob of every weight and sin that clings so closely so that Bob could run with endurance the race of this Christian life, so that Bob could keep his eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith. And now Bob’s race is won. He has finished his earthly course. Bob is in heaven with Jesus. And Christ is risen! Death is dead! Therefore Bob, too, shall rise.

That’s the promise in which Bob would have you rest today. That’s the promise in which he rested, the promise first given him in Holy Baptism. Christ is risen. Death is dead. And so death is not the end. On the Last Day, Bob’s soul will be reunited with his body, a body made perfect in the image of Christ’s resurrected body, and Bob will enjoy an eternity of bliss in a new heaven and a new earth. And so will all who believe in Christ Jesus. For all of you here this morning are also sinners. The wages of your sin is also death. Unless Christ returns first, we will also have to have a funeral for you. Bob is a witness to that fact. But so also, Christ Jesus died for you. Christ Jesus has forgiven you all of your sins. Christ Jesus has conquered your death. For all of you who are baptized into Christ Jesus, as Bob is, have put on Christ. His death is your death. And so His resurrection is your resurrection. And on the Last Day, you, too, will rise from the dead.

In fact, on that day all people will rise from dead, believers and unbelievers alike. The unbelievers will be raised to an eternal death in hell. But for those who are in Christ, baptized into Christ, believers in Christ Jesus, as Bob is, they shall be raised unto everlasting life. The promise, beloved, is for you, as much as it is for Bob. Today, as one of the saints who make up the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us, Bob points you to that promise. Bob points you to Jesus. Because it is only through Jesus Christ that you will be able to run the race with endurance. Only Jesus Christ can get you over the hurdle of Bob’s death, and your own mortality, and every other hurdle that life in this fallen world puts in your path. Only Jesus Christ can strip you of the sins that cling so closely and weigh you down. Because Jesus Christ ran the race perfectly, all the way to the cross, and has received the crown of righteousness in His resurrection, you also are able to run with endurance. For all who are baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death, and into His resurrection. If you are baptized, take comfort in this promise. Christ’s resurrection is yours. If you are not baptized, get baptized. Come and talk to me after the service. For this promise is for you, also. This morning Bob says to all of us one more time, “Imagine what Jesus did for us, shedding His blood for us poor sinners. How the Savior must love us.” Bob knows that love now as He sees the Savior face to face. Bob no longer lives by faith. He lives by sight. But you still live by faith. Know then, that the Savior loves you. He gives you strength in this time of grief. He gives you endurance to run the race of your baptismal life. He gives you the sure promise that death is defeated. Christ is risen. Death is dead. Bob will rise again. And so will you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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