Letters to the Editor (Feb.)

Eulogies can be apt

The January Reporter (“Letters to the Editor”) raised the question of whether eulogies are appropriate in Lutheran funeral services, such as that of the late Dr. Oswald Hoffmann.  I believe the answer is conditioned by the nature of the eulogy.

The dictionary defines a eulogy as “an oration in praise of a deceased person.”  We must then ask, What is the nature of this praise?  A eulogy based on a theology of works righteousness is clearly wrong.  But what about a eulogy setting forth the many ways in which the life of the deceased demonstrated the saving faith he or she had in Jesus Christ, a faith which showed itself in a life of service to God and mankind?  Such a eulogy would seem to be in accord with the Scriptures.

Revelation 14:13 declares: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.  ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.’ ”  Clearly the works of the departed are evidence of their saving faith.  Jesus indicates this same thought in His description of the final judgment (Matt. 25:34-40).  Also, James writes, “I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:18).

Thus it would appear to be quite appropriate in a funeral service to praise and thank God for the fruits of faith that the Gospel inspired in the lives of the faithful departed.

Rev. Paul A. Zimmerman
Traverse City, Mich.

I wonder how many readers were offended by the term “eulogist” in connection with the story on Dr. Hoffmann’s funeral.  The terminology should not be the issue.  I, too, was taught that “eulogy” is a bad word among Lutherans because it might imply that the deceased is in heaven because of his or her good works.

Does it need to be so?  Today when I eulogize the virtues of the deceased it is used as evidence of a true and living faith in Jesus — and thus evidence that our loved one is in heaven.    

Let’s not get hung up on terminology.  Let’s be more concerned that also at funerals we proclaim sin and grace, Law and Gospel in such a way that hearers will want to praise (eulogize) God for His grace and mercy to us in Christ.

Rev. Norbert Becker
St. Louis

Delegates will come to order                                     

In his January Reporter insert, “President’s Leadership News,” President Kieschnick shared his thoughts concerning the type of people who should be elected as delegates to district and synodical conventions.  Among other things, he said, delegates “should be individuals who do not hold extremist views or positions, from the ‘far right’ or ‘far left,’ on theological or practical matters.” 

Just maybe those “extremist” views from right and left need to be heard.  And what is “extremist”?  I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that unity of doctrine is required for altar-and-pulpit fellowship.  In the thinking of some, these are “extremist” views.

Rev. Dennis Hipenbecker
Wauwatosa, Wis.

As a pastoral delegate to the last convention, I was excited and yet apprehensive about what would transpire, having heard many rumors.  But I was unprepared for what really did happen.

The first day, I noticed numerous groups outside the convention center offering lists of suggestions for the day’s elections.  I made sure to get all the lists so I would not accidentally vote for someone I considered to be “one of them.”  I wanted to make sure I helped to advance “our side’s” cause.

Two seats from me, another pastor had his lists as well, which I discovered to be lists endorsing those I had come to regard as the “wrong” candidates.  Every time one of those candidates got elected, the pastor would celebrate with a grin and a “Yessss!”  I then began to make sure I voted against everyone on his lists, just to spite him.  I began to think of him as the enemy.

I realize now how shameful my actions were.  I wish to apologize to all the members of the Synod for my sinful behavior.  I have and continue to confess my sins to God our Father, and I have been assured by brothers in the ministry that my sins are forgiven in Christ.

Since the convention, the Synod seems to have splintered into many factions.  Charges have been leveled and accusations are flying.  Congregations and pastors and people have resigned or been removed from membership.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed.  All sides have attempted to defend their position from the pages of Scripture.  Everyone involved thinks he has justifiable cause to be upset, and all sides have been pointing fingers at each other, demanding the other side confess their faults.

The purpose of this letter is not to delve into the rights or wrongs of the lawsuit or anyone else’s actions or stances.  I am pleading with our elected leaders and the many opposing groups within the Synod to make a concerted and joint effort to resolve this without resorting to the court system.

I also respectfully request that all publications, official and unofficial; all Web sites; all online forums and discussion groups cease any further articles or discussion on this subject until a humble effort had been made toward a God-pleasing resolution in this matter.

Let us all get down on our faces and humble ourselves before the Lord in repentance and faith.  Please, I beg everyone, put aside the mentalities of “us vs. them,” “we’re right and they’re wrong,” and “we will win and they will lose.”  We have been reconciled to God through our Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection.  Let us reconcile ourselves to our fellow believers.

Rev. Ray Salemink
Eagle Grove, Iowa

A pot-bound plant 

I found Dr. Bruce Hartung’s December and January “Pressure Points” columns very stimulating.  The pastor’s wife’s dilemma (her desire to worship not only at her husband’s small church but also to be involved in the ministries of a neighboring larger church) reminds us of our need to talk together about our fears, hopes, frustrations, and joys.  

It’s unlikely that the church will fall apart if the dear sister talks with her brothers and sisters in Christ about what she perceives are her spiritual needs, and if they in turn talk about their own spiritual needs and their thoughts about what it means to be in community in Christ. 

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