I don't know why, but today I'm thinking of Carl Aufdemberge, long-time pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Edwardsville and husband to Jo, now a member at St. Paul's and a good friend. Carl died suddenly nine years ago last month. I was privileged to be with him in his final hours at the hospital and to deliver the homily for his funeral. Here's what I preached; I offer it today in memory of a man of God who is still sorely missed by those knew and loved him. Memory eternal, Carl!
Homily in Celebration of the Passover of Carl Aufdemberge into Life Eternal
This is Carl’s confirmation verse, Psalm 111, verse 10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Jo, Carla and Susan and Stephen, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, family and friends of Carl Aufdemberge, the praise goes on. If there was one thing Carl knew, it was that the praise of God does not, cannot and will not stop. “His praise endureth forever.”
It was a lesson he learned from his godly parents. They who had picked him up as a two day old child and rushed him into the arms of the Savior. They knew that he had been born into the sadness of sin and they wished for him to have eternal joys, to have a hope worth singing about all his life. The Savior reached out and received that little baby, took him into his arms, marked him with the holy cross, branded him from that moment as one of his own. A sheep of his own fold. A sinner of his own redeeming. And so at the ripe old age of two days by the power of Holy Baptism, Carl’s feet were set upon the path of praise, brought into the family of God where the song never ceases.
The Aufdemberges sing. I’ve heard Carl make that declaration more than once and always with joy and godly pride. The Aufdemberges sing. He grew up with the Lord’s song being sung in his home and into his heart. He was nurtured in Christ in an atmosphere of praise. His parents taught him well that praise of God goes on forever and it is by our very entrance into that praise and living from it that we will find the strength to go on too. “His praise endureth forever.”
From youth he was taught that when the times are good and big belly laughs are called for (and you know he had a big belly laugh), then it is time to praise. And so songs. And when the times are bad, when hearts are broken, when tempers flare, when disappointments break over us in waves, then it is time to praise. And so songs. With tears in the eyes if need be, but songs of praise nevertheless. “His praise endureth forever.”
Old Job had the hang of it. When he came face to face with the awful thing that death does to those he loved, when he sat down in the dust and the ashes and tore his clothes in grief, he opened his mouth and said: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.” “His praise endureth forever.”
This is what Carl taught his children. This is what he taught his students. This is what he taught his confirmands. This is what he taught his parishioners. This is what he taught his brother pastors. That in Jesus Christ, in the one who has marked us and sealed us as his own, the one who became one flesh and one bone with us, the one who died to forgive all of our sin and rose to destroy our death and returns to raise his people and take them home, in HIM we have cause for praise that does not end. “His praise endureth forever.”
And Carl praised all the louder because he knew he was a sinner who needed such a Savior and he was grateful that he had been given one. He was not perfect. He was, as we all are, the earthen vessel that holds the priceless treasure. Cracked pots one and all. Yet the treasure is the cause for all the praise: the eternal life, the everlasting joy which Jesus Christ gives to us. “His praise endureth forever.”
The nurses from the ICU need to be here today to tell you how it was. It was something that they will never forget. Me either. When the Lord called his sheep to bid him leave the earthly pastures, how could his passage to eternity be accomplished without song? It couldn’t. “His praise endureth forever.”
His family stood around his bed. They opened their hymnals and they sang. They sang in four-part harmony. They sang to celebrate Carl’s passing, his passover, his going home. They sang. They defied death with their song. They let death know that it had not the victory over Carl or over them. The song rang out. “Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoiceth, who from our mother’s arms hath helped us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today.” The song rang out: “Then let at last thine angels come, to Abram’s bosom bear me home.” The song rang out: “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.” The song rang out: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” “His praise endureth forever.”
So much music at a funeral. So many songs. But not nearly enough. Not time enough in time itself to get all the singing in. It spills over to fill an eternity. For all the songs that Carl didn’t get time to sing enough of here, he has the joy of singing there. And Jo, and all who love Carl and all who Carl loved, when we lift our voices in praise, when we give thanks to the Lamb who has paid for the sin of the world and celebrate our joy before his throne, we are one, one family. The song of the Church is one. Carl rejoices on another shore and in a greater light, but the rejoicing is one. We sing and he sings, with all the angels and archangels and all the blessed dead, we sing together. And one day we will hear their song no longer by faith but also with our very own ears. We will hear them and join them, all we who place our faith in the same cause for all the heavenly-hoopla, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb for sinners slain, the Risen Joy of all his people. “His praise endureth forever.”
Amid the tears, amid the laughter, in the hard times and in the good, always and everywhere: “His praise endureth forever.” Amen.