Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, August 09, 2014

In Memoriam +Henry Louis Pfauth+

In Memoriam +Henry Louis Pfauth+

August 9, 2014
Text: John 10:11-15

            Hank Pfauth walked in danger all the way, whether it be the earthly perils he faced in his time in service to our country during World War II, or the physical ailments that plagued him, particularly the last few years of his life.  He also knew that he walked amidst spiritual dangers, the flaming arrows of the evil one, temptation, sin, and death.  But just as Hank bravely served our nation, confident that the Lord would take care of him, so he bravely walked in this life in the midst of spiritual dangers confident that his walk was with Jesus Christ all the way, who would, as our Psalm declares, keep him from all evil, keep his life, keep his going out and his coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Ps. 121:7-8).  Hank trusted in Jesus, his Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep, for Hank, for you and me, that we might forever live in the safety of the Lord.
            That Jesus is our Good Shepherd means that He leads us, as the beloved Psalm 23 sings, through the valley of the shadow of death and out the other side again.  So that’s what He’s done for Hank.  Our Good Shepherd Jesus led our brother Hank through death and to Himself in heaven, to safety, to joy, to eternal life.  Jesus can lead us through that valley because He’s been there Himself.  That is what He did on the cross for us.  He conquered death by dying.  Dying in our place.  Dying for us, for Hank, for our sin, to pay our debt to God and to purchase us to be His own.  And what He purchases with His own blood He does not leave behind in the valley.  He does not leave Hank in death.  Hank lives.  He lives with Jesus.  He sees now for himself what we can only know by faith, as he stands before the throne of God and of the Lamb with the saints adorned in their white robes.  And the Lamb in the center of the throne, Jesus Christ, who is risen and living… this is His promise: He will raise Hank and all of us from the dead when He comes again on the Last Day.
            Until that Day, or until we join Hank with Jesus in heaven, we, too, walk in danger all the way.  Jesus tells us about those dangers in our Holy Gospel.  He talks about the hired hands who flee at the first sign of danger and the wolves who snatch and scatter the sheep (John 10:12).  Those would be the people and things that we fear, love, and trust more than God.  Those are the people and things we follow instead of listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, to follow Him.  They also include our three main enemies who are always out to devour us like a wolf: the devil, the unbelieving world, and our own sinful flesh.  If you don’t believe you walk in danger all the way, just consider why we’re here today.  Death is the certain reality of life in this fallen world.  We try to ignore it, shield our eyes and ears from it, but eventually a loved one dies and we have to go to the funeral.  We have to confront it, this sad reality.  And we grieve.  It looks like the wolf won.  It looks like the Good Shepherd wasn’t so good after all, like He fell asleep on the job, as though He failed.
            But things are not as they appear.  The Good Shepherd wins the victory over death by, of all things, submitting to it.  What does He say?  “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; ESV).  The Good Shepherd, Jesus, allows the wolf, death, to swallow Him whole.  And the devil rejoices.  The demons dance for joy.  The enemies of Christ sing their triumph song.  Until the wolf’s tummy starts to rumble.  And ache.  And writhe.  And then Christ, the crucified Savior, punches a hole right through death’s belly so that it can never hold another sheep captive in the tomb again. That’s what happened on Good Friday and Easter, in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
            So the same Jesus came to Hank on Wednesday morning, in the wee small hours, and said to him, “Henry…” He says Henry because He calls us by our baptismal names.  “Henry,” Jesus said.  “The time for walking in danger is over.  Walk with me where it is safe, through the valley of the shadow to the bright eternal day of heaven.”  And for the first time in a long time, Hank walked without trouble, better, in fact, than He’d ever walked before, with Jesus, with the holy angels, to the place Jesus has prepared for him in His Father’s house.  He now enjoys God’s good healing that we sang about in the 6th verse of the hymn (LSB 716), the good healing that allays all suffering, sin, and sorrow, because those things are at an end in Christ.  The sorrow is ours today, not Hank’s.  He is in perfect joy and bliss in the presence of the Savior.  He wouldn’t have it any other way, again, as we sang in the verse: “For all the world I would not stay; My walk is heav’nward all the way.”  For all the world, Hank would not have stayed.  Not because he doesn’t love you.  But because he is where he belongs.  He is healed.  He is with Jesus.  And you’ll see him again.  You’ll see him when you are there with him, with Jesus, because of Jesus, who gives you eternal life. 
            Death is always sad.  Even for Christians.  Because we miss our loved one.  We miss Hank.  But there is also a note of joy at every Christian funeral.  Because we know what Jesus has done about death, Hank’s and ours, in His own death on the cross and in His resurrection.  We know what happens for every believer who walks with Jesus through the valley of the shadow, that He brings them into the light and life of heaven.  And we know what happens at the end, when Jesus returns, and tells us to come out of the grave in our bodies.  Beloved in the Lord, this body will rise from the dead!  So the Christian funeral is a celebration and a confession of the Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.  We know the end of the story.  We know the Good Shepherd wins.  And death lays dying at the foot of His cross.
            The joy of it all is that we, like Hank, can walk with Jesus all the way.  He never walks away from us.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  Not in life.  Not in death.  He walks with us because we are baptized into Him, united to Him by water and the Word.  He walks with us, speaking His Word of life to us.  And here at the altar, He feeds us with Himself, His true body and blood, given and shed for us, for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He spreads a Feast before us.  And not just us, but those who have gone before, Hank and all the saints, who continue to join us “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”  The hymn we just sang preaches Hank’s confidence in Christ.  That confidence is ours, as well.  “I walk with Jesus all the way, His guidance never fails me; Within His wounds I find a stay When Satan’s pow’r assails me; And by His footsteps led, My path I safely tread.  No evil leads my soul astray; I walk with Jesus all the way” (LSB 716:5).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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