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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What We Do

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 20:25 mark.

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

Today many Lutheran churches are celebrating this as Reformation Sunday, since it’s the closest Sunday to October 31 that’s not All Saints Day. We celebrate it as the beginning of the Reformation of Christ’s Church, even though many of the 95 Theses would seem foreign to Lutherans today, since some of them still assumed that purgatory existed and that indulgences simply needed to be rescued from how they were being abused. And while I think that June 25, the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession is a much bigger deal for us than October 31, still, it’s the most commonly recognized day for the beginning of the Reformation.

So we are reminded once again of the significance of salvation by grace through faith alone, the all-sufficiency of Christ for our justification, and the essential centrality of the written and preached Word of God, which testifies to the Word of God made flesh, Jesus. One of the other things on which we pride ourselves is the Scriptural teaching that human works contribute nothing to our salvation. Our salvation is one hundred percent accomplished and sustained by the work of God, and we receive it in faith. When it comes to the justification of sinners, there is no room for sinners contributing to that justification, because even the smallest contribution means just that much uncertainty about whether our salvation is really complete. This is the free and liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ, that because He has done everything and it really is complete, there is no doubt about whether there’s anything left for us to do to be right before God. You have been clothed with Christ, and you can’t be more perfect than Jesus; you can’t be more pleasing to God than His Son is to Him.

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