Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christian Funeral for Paul Drensek

John 14:1-6; Romans 8:31-39; Job 19:21-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly beloved family and friends of our departed brother in Christ Paul Drensek, sons Paul and Robert, daughter Krista, adored grandchildren, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are gathered here today to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for the faith and life our Lord granted to His servant, His child, and His son Paul, whom the LORD in His providence has seen fit to call home to His heavenly pastures where His sheep may safely graze.
In many ways, Paul represents the mythic, ideal American. Paul was born in the midst of The Great Depression in Turau, Germany where he learned the value of ordinary, mundane, but needful things. In such an environment of paucity and want are forged the great American values and virtues of conservatism, fidelity and trust, honesty, courage, hard work, contentment, and of not complaining even when times were very lean and difficult and dark. Paul immigrated to the United States in 1950 and immediately set about his trade as a master bricklayer and mason, joining the Allied Craftsmen whose members have built some of the most famous and iconic buildings and bridges in New York City. Paul was proud to be an American, and he worked hard for everything he received. In 1952 Paul was drafted into the U. S. Army, serving until 1979, first in the regular army and then the army reserve. He was a member of 11th Special Forces Group – Airborne, a paratrooper – proudly wearing the Green Beret. In 1958, Paul married Helga Lindig. Paul and Helga were married just shy of 54 years when Helga died in the Lord in 2012.
I’ve had the privilege and honor of knowing Paul over fourteen years. At church, Paul carried himself with a quiet and reserved, but strong and resolute dignity. I have found him to be a man of few words, but never unkind or hasty words, though his family have told me that, after a couple beers – which he goodly enjoyed as every German Lutheran should – he had a lot more to say, and with a great deal of humor and joy as well. Paul was a proud man, but not arrogant. His pride was not in being better than or having more than others, but his pride was in doing and being the best he could do and be, and what was good, and right, and true. I observed Paul particularly at the Pawling American Legion Memorial Day ceremony each year representing the best our nation has produced. Again, the quiet, reserved dignity was on display, this time joined by several others, some of whom are present today – men who gave of themselves for an idea they believed in, remembering and honoring those who gave all for the same. As one who has not served, but has been the beneficiary of their sacrifice, I say, “Thank you. God bless you and keep you. May your remembrance be eternal.”
Paul and Helga were the first parishioners to invite me to their home when I arrived in Pawling. I was served an authentic German cold-cut platter, which I take to be a staple in the Drensek home. Though I don’t remember, I’m certain they offered me a beer. Again, Paul enjoyed his beer. I loved to see him at our Oktoberfest celebration, happy as a clam. Krista and Paul told me that they were able to give their dad a little beer in the hospital. That put a smile on his face. Earlier, he had asked the nurses if he could step out for a beer. He promised to come back. Paul had a special relationship with his sister Katherina. His vehicle could regularly be seen parked outside her apartment. After Helga died, he dutifully brought Katherina to church and they sat together. Katherina had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. I always had the feeling that she and Paul were sharing a secret joke together. Paul was very proud of his family, his three children and five grandchildren, and why not? You are vibrant and strong, sharing his values, and a few have even followed him in military service. The many photos that have been shared in conjunction with Helga’s, Katherina’s, and now Paul’s funerals tell the story of family, love, and pride.
I can’t say that Paul had a lot in common with Job, except that both men were blessed richly by God. As the story goes, however, Satan challenged God saying that Job only loved Him because God had blessed him so richly – take away his blessings, Satan accused, and Job will curse you. So, God gave Satan permission to afflict Job that His righteousness might be proven as Job remained faithful in spite of severe affliction and suffering. Satan attacked Job’s wealth and possessions, killing all his herds and flocks. Then Satan attacked Job’s children and killed them. Lastly, Satan afflicted Job’s body with horrible sores so that all he had left was his life. Throughout it all, Job would not curse God and die. Instead Job confessed, “The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” I believe that Job’s confession is a confession that Paul would make as well, for his faith and trust was not in material possessions or even family or health, but in the LORD. In the midst of His suffering, Job was able to make a powerful confession of faith in the resurrection of the body even two millennia before the birth of Jesus saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” That confession must be our confession too, now, as we mourn and grieve that the LORD has taken away our Father, Grandfather, brother in Christ, and friend. We confess that, in Jesus Christ, we will see Paul again with our own eyes, hear his voice with our own eyes, and hug him with our own flesh and blood arms.
In a way, like Paul, our Lord Jesus Christ was a master bricklayer and mason: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Jesus has gone and prepared a place, has built a room, for you in His Father’s house. That room is sturdy and strong, unmovable, and cannot be taken away. Jesus had prepared a place for Helga and for Katherina, and Jesus had prepared a place for Paul too. This is great comfort and peace we can have on a day like this – that our salvation and life are not the result of either our sins or our good works, but they are the result of Jesus’ sinlessness and work on our behalf and in our stead and place. Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].” But, all who trust in Jesus are guaranteed a room in His Father’s house, and no one can take that away.
Does it sound like God is on your side? Indeed He is, as St. Paul proclaims, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Through good times and bad times, through times of plenty and times of want, God remains faithful, constant, and true. He is our mighty fortress when “devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.” “We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.” This is our confession and our faith. This was Paul’s confession and faith too. That is why, amidst the tears and the sorrows, there is also a resolute comfort, contentment, hope, and peace. For, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is why your hearts need not be troubled. You believe in God? Believe also in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the way to the Father. Paul was a baptized child of God who trusted in Him throughout His life. All that Jesus died to give to Paul, Paul received through baptism into Christ and faith. God has kept His promise to Paul, and He will keep His promise to you. This is God’s gift that we celebrate at Christmas. Let us remember and trust that we may be encouraged and have hope all the days of our lives, through death, unto life that never ends.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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