The Funeral for Tom Oelke

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God grant to all of you—children, family, and friends of Tom—the peace and comfort of Christ today and in the days to come. I’ve been around long enough to know that people sometimes—maybe—might act differently around their families or friends than they do when the pastor shows up. So no doubt some of you who knew Tom well knew his shortcomings and sins. But for my part, over the many, many visits I had with Tom, both at his house, and at River West, I never heard Tom complain a single time about his circumstances, afflictions, or difficulties. I know he was frustrated with the limitations of Parkinson’s, but he never complained to me. I always asked him how he was, and he always answered with something like, “Oh, pretty good,” or “doing well.” Part of that was probably the nature of his personality, and maybe part of it is was that the pastor was in the room. But part of it was the confidence and assurance that Tom received from God’s promises, including the promise here in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5.

Tom knew the truth of what St. Paul says here. He knew a lot about his outer self wasting away, about what probably didn’t seem like light or momentary afflictions, about groaning and longing for the heavenly dwelling. He knew about his body not doing what he wanted it to do.

But he also knew the certainty and assurance of the promise in the midst of all that. He did not lose heart. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ. He knew that the Jesus who had claimed him for His own was the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” that even when things didn’t look anything like resurrection and life, he had Jesus, who was his life. He knew that Jesus had given him that life in His repeated words and promises, and in His own living and life-giving Body and Blood. He knew the blessing of the Lord, with which I always left him, that God promised to bless and keep him, to turn His face toward him and be gracious to him, to give him peace.

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