Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Memoriam +Willard Theodore Steffens+


In Memoriam +Willard Theodore Steffens+
May 30, 2013
Text: John 10:14-16, 27-30

            The Lord knows those who are His.  Think about this amazing fact: Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them, visible and invisible, Lord of all, knows each one of us right down to the minutest detail.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Even the hairs of our head are all numbered (Matt. 10:30).  And since that is the case, we have this great comfort.  Our Lord God knows His servant Ted Steffens by name.  God put His own Name on Ted in Holy Baptism: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Father gave the Son, Jesus Christ, into the death of the cross to purchase Ted and you for Himself.  Ted belongs to God.  And so on that day in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Bryan Memorial West Hospital, May 23rd at 2 pm, after praying the Lord’s Prayer with his family, Ted heard the voice of the Lord Jesus: “Willard Theodore, come home.  Come and enter the joy of your Master.”  And then Ted opened his eyes to see the face of the Savior in heaven.
            Notice that all three of our readings, the Old Testament, the Epistle, and the Holy Gospel say virtually the same thing: “The LORD… knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7; ESV).  The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim. 2:19).  I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).  And of course our Psalm (Ps. 23) makes this point throughout as the Lord our Shepherd cares for us, His sheep, so that we are safe and secure, well-fed and watered by His Word and Sacraments in His holy Church, and so that we have the sure and certain promise that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  To be known by the Lord in this way means not just that the Lord knows things about us, or is somehow acquainted with us.  To be known by the Lord in this way means that He has a relationship with us.  It means that He knows us intimately, that He loves us, that He cares for us, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Not even in death.  So the Lord knows Ted.  And I’m using the present tense on purpose.  The Lord knows Ted.  The Lord didn’t cease to know Ted when Ted breathed his last.  The Lord knows Ted, who, though he has died, continues to live, in heaven, with Jesus Christ, the Savior. 
            Now,  a great deal will be said today about what a great guy Ted was and what great things he did, and it will all be true, and those stories are important.  However, this may come as a shock to you, but God isn’t impressed with any of it.  Ted isn’t in heaven because he was a great guy who did great things.  The plain fact of the matter is that Ted was a sinner.  We confess that bluntly here in the Church.  Ted confessed it bluntly every Sunday.  And he knew, as St. Paul teaches us, that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  But he also knew, as Paul says, that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Ted knew that he wasn’t saved by anything he had done, not by good works, not by being a good person, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and by that alone.  Ted was baptized into that reality, baptized into Christ, so that our Lord’s death and resurrection became Ted’s own death and resurrection.  That’s what St. Paul writes, and what we confessed of Ted and of ourselves just a few moments ago: “We were buried therefore with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:4-5).  Actually, those who are baptized into Christ get their death over with right there at the font.  That’s what Paul is saying.  And they have eternal life now, even in this earthly life, albeit hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).  It’s an eternal life that begins in Baptism and is revealed in heaven, and revealed fully in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.
            Yes, baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, our Lord Jesus will call Ted by name once again on the Last Day: “Willard Theodore, come out of the grave!”  And he will.  This body will rise from the dead.  How could it be otherwise?  For the risen Lord Jesus knows His servant Ted.  Knows him by name.  Knows him and loves him.  And He is the Good Shepherd.  The sheep of the Good Shepherd know His voice.  They follow Him.  So where Jesus has gone, there the sheep go.  Jesus is in heaven.  Ted is in heaven.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  Ted Steffens will rise from the dead.  Where the Shepherd is, there the sheep are gathered.  And what is true for Ted, is true for you.  He is your Good Shepherd.  He died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  He is risen that you might have eternal life.  He gives that life to you in His Word, and in Baptism, and in the Supper of His body and blood.  The Lord knows you.  Even in your grief.  He loves you.  He cares for you.  And when you meet Him face to face, He will do for you what He is doing now for Ted.  He will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev. 7:17).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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