Not Unto Me — a sermon at the funeral of Adam Menze
Associate Editor’s Note: Adam Menze died in a plane crash last week. He had a wife (Rhonda) and six young children. He was a very close friend to Pr. Karl Weber, one of our regular writers. If you would like to send a card to the family, please send to Rhonda Menze, 35391 Quiet Waters Rd, Ottertail, MN, 56571. If you would like to financially support her young children, there has been an educational fund “Menze Kids” has been set up at the First National Bank of Henning, Ottertail, and Battle Lake. Donations can be sent to:
First National Bank Ottertail
P.O. Box 40
Ottertail, MN 56571
Please include the family in your prayers. I would also encourage you to pray for Pastor Weber as well as he serves so faithfully in this place and has not only lost a member of his congregation, but a best friend as well. The friendship he shared with Adam is a fine testament to clergy and laity loving and caring for one another and working together in the vocations God has given. The following is the sermon that Pr. Weber preached at the funeral held yesterday:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. John 5:24-27
Greetings in the name of our merciful Savior who has risen from dead: Greetings to Rhonda, Ella, Isaac, Paul, Lilly, Gloria, and little Anna. Greetings to Dale, Linda, Aaron / Teresa, all family, parishioners, and friends.
We are here because once again, we have come up against things beyond our control and we cry out for comfort, and help. A man in the prime of life is now with the Lord Jesus while people, advanced in age, severely deteriorating, linger, in-spite of our prayers for the Lord to heal them by taking them to himself in heaven.
These mysteries underscore that we are not in control, that he who rose from the dead on the third day is. Does not Jesus tell us this when he says?
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9)
Those who knew Adam would agree that he would be most uncomfortable knowing we assembled due him. Why? Adam was about serving the neighbor in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of Adam Menze.
In our conversations we say that 41 is a young age to pass on. Our hearts grieve. We are not alone. Our Lord Jesus tells that to pass away at any age, even the ripe age of 100 is not right. For death is an incursion into life. It is contrary to the will and purpose of him who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). Adam’s sudden passing tells us we need to be ready for that day and hour when no one can work. Adam would have me tell you how you can be ready (Eccl 9:12). And your readiness comes from Jesus and what he has done for you. And for your soul’s salvation Adam would ask that you believe on Christ for the forgiveness of your sins that you can meet Adam in heaven.
On November 28, 1971 Jesus breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils and he became a living being. By the power of the Word the blood that poured from Calvary washed over Adam in holy water. In his baptism, Adam died, for as St. Paul says, Baptism unites us to Christ’s death. And so every day of his life Adam died—was drowned—as the sin he inherited from our first parents was put to death. Then, in God’s mysterious way, Adam’s dying was completed on Wednesday, February 20th, at about 6:30 PM.
But Adam died not as an orphan, not alone. Through the washing of Holy Water he was united to his Elder Brother. And there is more, for Jesus delights in giving gifts. In baptism the Spirit of Christ tells us that Adam was united to Jesus in his resurrected life. In Baptism Adam was born-again and received the gift of eternal life from our resurrected Savior, Jesus.
Adam lives right now, even as we mourn he rejoices. May the Holy Spirit grant us the faith to believe these simple but true and comforting words from Jesus. Last Thursday evening Mary was on the couch reading to Lilly who told Mary the same thing Isaac told me when I was in the other room on the floor playing trains with him. I QUOTE “My dad died. He is with Jesus in heaven. One day I will see my dad, when I go to heaven.” Out of the mouth of babes (Mk 10:15).
As Adam did with his family, he would tell me to preach Christ crucified, tell them about Jesus, pastor, and the forgiveness of sins found in the world’s only Savior—the one born of Mary, crucified under Pilate. We who knew Adam were amazed at what he could do; computers, financing, engineering, farming, weather, markets, raising six children with Rhonda, etc. But there are two things that Adam knew more firmly and truly in his heart than any of the things just mentioned.
First he knew beyond a doubt that he was a sinner—by nature and unclean, as we confess in our liturgy. And then, secondly, and even more important Adam knew who would rescue him from this body of death (Rom 7:24-25). Adam would lead his family as he would run, yearn, look forward to coming to God’s house on the Lord’s day to receive the gifts of our crucified Savior in the Divine Service. Because Adam loved his Savior he wanted every Sunday to receive Jesus’ gifts of redemption through the Word, liturgy, prayer, and every Sunday Communion. And, every day he would lead his family in home devotions and work with the children on their Sunday School memory work. LUNCH time…
The first, and most important thing in Adam’s life was to receive the gifts of his Lord Jesus, and all the fine gifts of creation took a back seat. He was always in Bible Study to learn ever more about the gifts Jesus gave him in his baptism. On Sundays when people invited Adam to skip church to enjoy the gifts of creation he would politely say he would join them AFTER he had received the gifts of redemption from Jesus.
Rhonda, … Adam LOVED you so much. You and your children have been left with an incredible heritage, that will not rust, perish, or spoil. As your husband, your godly head (Eph 5:23), Adam left you a heritage that pointed you and your little ones to him who purchased righteousness for us through his innocent, bitter, suffering and death on the cross. This is the true heritage that Adam left you for all others will tarnish. The heritage of computers, engineering, gasoline engines, farming, markets will all be seen for what it is; tarnished, rusting goods.
The gift Jesus has given you Rhonda, and your children, and all of us, in Adam, has gone home. Jesus granted Adam a blessed end. “How is that?” many may wonder thinking about the plane moving towards the ground at so many feet per second, the explosion, the fright, the cold. How did Adam receive a blessed end—a blessed death—from Jesus? Because, all through Adam’s life Jesus preserved Adam in his baptismal grace. Adam died in saving faith in Jesus and that is a most blessed end. And that is why the writer to the Apocalypse so joyously wrote for us:
“ … Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Rev 14:13).
Adam impacted so many lives in so many ways simply by living out his vocation. He knew from Jesus that we never exclude good works from justification. What we exclude is confidence in our good works. Our good works add nothing to what Jesus has already won for us on Mt Calvary and distributes in the Means of Grace.
In church Adam’s faith was passive, which is to say, his faith received good gifts from Jesus. Imagine coming to church on Sunday morning with a big empty sack. In the church service, we receive all sorts of gifts from Jesus: mercy, knowledge, forgiveness our sins, Christ’s body and blood, the pledge of a good conscience—and our sack if filled to overflowing.
When Adam would leave the Divine Service on Sunday his faith was active—giving, serving—the neighbor. Adam would meet his neighbor in need: “oh, this dear soul needs mercy,” and so Adam would reach into his sack and give Christ’s mercy to the neighbor in need.
A neighbor in need of finances, … reach into sack
Need to hear that Christ died for the forgiveness of this person’s sins and Adam would gently share the Gospel with her
A neighbor was in want of devotional material Adam would search through his sake and pull out devotional material for the individual
Someone needing computer help, … reach into the sack
A friend just had a baby and Adam would encourage that mom to have her baby born-again by bringing her little one to the sacrament of Holy Baptism where the blood of Jesus shed on Good Friday would wash over that child to forgive him his sins, and adopt him into the family of God.
By the end of the week the sack was well-nigh empty, and so Adam and his family would return to God’s house where Jesus would re-fill to overflowing that sack once again, for Adam’s sake, and the sake of the neighbor.
This is so well confessed by the hymn writer, Paul Speratus, a personal friend of Martin Luther, who wrote the beautiful hymn, “Salvation unto Us Has Come.” I ask you to pick up your bulletin, look for the title written in blue that says, Faith and Good Works.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
Lutheran Service Book, prepared by the Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), hymn # 555 Salvation unto Us Has Come, st. 9.
In the Apocalypse we have: “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:13b). It was for Jesus’ sake that Adam impacted so many lives, that more may come to the knowledge that in Christ’s shed blood we have the forgiveness of our sins, eternal life with God. That is why Adam would be uncomfortable knowing we are here because of him. It is all about the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ who loves sinners and gave his life so we may live through faith in him.
Jesus gave us a most beautiful picture of the Christian life through a godly, godly, man, Adam.
A gift from Jesus named Adam, is no longer with us. But the giver of all gifts, Jesus Christ is, and never will he leave or forsake us, for he has engraved each and every one of you on the palms of his hands (Is 49:16). He knew you before you were even formed in the womb (Jer 1:5), and, he has called you by name through the Gospel.
Rhonda, as Jesus provided for you and your little ones through Adam’s hard work, Jesus will continue to provide for you, in ways which shall be unveiled at God’s time. Though eyes are moist and throats are raw, and will continue to be for some time, there will come a day of refreshing, a day, when the Lord Jesus makes all things new for he will cheer our much soiled faces. Jesus “… upholds the widow and the fatherless …” (Ps 146:9).
In our day of technology and science we look for comfort in answer to our questions. But comfort, true comfort is found in relationship, a relationship with the God who rose from the dead on the third day. This relationship of true comfort comes to us in our Baptism, where Jesus first came to us; in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar where Jesus gives his body in the bread and holy blood in the wine, for our forgiveness, comfort, and strengthening. I conclude with these words that Jesus speaks to us through the prophet Zephaniah:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph 3:17)
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