29 November 2011

Homily for the Funeral of Arnold Hellmann

[Isaiah 25:6-9 / 1 Cor. 15:51-57 / John 10:27-30]

Brothers and sisters, family and friends of Arne Hellmann:  A coffin under a Christmas tree.  Fitting, for it reminds us why the Child came:  "From sin and death He saves us / and lightens every load."

Still waters run deep, so the saying goes.  And Arne was still waters.  I remember visiting the house when Harold was sick, and Harold and Elsie would chat up a storm about this, that, and the other thing.  We’d talk about things in Synod, latest tidbits in Christian News, things in the congregation, favorite hymns and Scriptures and whatnot.  But Arne would sit silent for the most part.  Every once in a while he’d throw in a comment or two.  He seemed most comfortable talking outside, looking across that beautiful lake and listening to the sound of wind in those pines.  Still waters run deep indeed.

And deep in that man had been planted the Word of God.  Oh, from that moment when your godly parents picked up their 12 day old boy and marched him off to receive Baptism in the old St. Paul’s.  Pr. Hansen poured the water over his little head and said:  “Ich taufe dich im namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geiste.” And parents and sponsors answered:  “Amen!”  From that moment on, Arne belonged to another.  To Jesus, who is the Savior of sinners and the Destruction of death itself.

Raised in church and school, the Word of God was planted deep into Arne.  And it bore its fruit.  It gave him faith, faith which he freely confessed before this very altar on the day of his confirmation in 1940.  And still he listened to the great promises of God’s Word as he grew.  He came as a faithful communicant to the Supper of His Lord and into Him was given the undying body and blood of the Son of God as the guarantee that just as his sins had been wiped out so also his death would also be undone by His Savior.

Isaiah was celebrating that in our first reading – that the Lord was planning a feast for His people to celebrate death’s defeat; death’s own death.  For when death swallowed down the Lord Jesus, it swallowed a deadly poison to itself.  He came crashing out of death’s stinking maw on Easter Morning and left behind a path for His people to follow Him right out of it.  Such a promise gave Arne hope and joy.  It sustained him in his years of service in the military and through the long years when he saw so many that he loved taken away.  He could look up death and see it for what it is:  a defeated enemy.  It couldn’t hold His Savior; it can’t hold those who are the Savior’s; it can’t hold HIM.  Baptized into Christ, Arne knew he had a life death couldn’t take away.

Oh, it’s still the enemy.  Still something to be fought.  When he was diagnosed he was ready to fight it if were worthwhile.  But if not, he was at peace with that too.  He spoke to me freely of his death not as something to be feared or welcomed, but simply as whatever the Lord’s will was.  He was at peace with that.

And he was concerned about the way things were going in this society and country.  He shared with a book that he’d read by Pr. Wilkerson that spoke of our great country’s demise if we refuse to turn from our sin, confess it, seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Arne knew that the living God was not to be trifled with.  He wants His salvation for all; but He will bring judgment on all who continue to spurn His ways and walk on in their stubborn hearts.

We spoke that day of repentance.  Of what a joy it was to live hating sin and eagerly waiting to finally be rid of the menace.  The sting of death is sin; the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God.  HE gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That day we prayed the 23rd Psalm.  Planted deep into him, he prayed it with me and missed not one single word.  Still waters run deep – and deep into Arne had gone the comfort of having a Good Shepherd who would lead him through the valley of the shadow of death and into eternal life.

It was Sunday that Louis called to let me know Arne was back in the hospital.  I visited with him that night.  He was weak.  The breathing very labored and hard.  Again the promises of God’s Word were shared and once more the 23rd Psalm prayed.  This time he didn’t have the air to speak them aloud, but his lips moved with every single syllable.  When everything else was being taken from him, the Word of God remained with him and gave him comfort, hope, and strength.  Monday, Pastor Gleason also shared the Word and prayed with Arne.  We could see the end was coming close and so could he.  And he was ready.

I’m not sure, Louie and Carl, if he heard the prayers we prayed on Wednesday morning or not.  But that day I read to him the beautiful promise of today’s Gospel:  My sheep hear my voice.  And Arne did that his whole life long.  Not a big speaker, but a big listener.  If he didn't hear me that morning, he could have said the words any way.  He heard and held that word in his heart.  “And I know them and they follow me and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all.  And no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one.”

Eternal life.  A life that the Word of Jesus plant in a man or woman.  Words that give and sustain faith.  Words that a man can quietly live his whole life on and find them the joy of his heart, and in them, the hope of his whole life.

Still waters run deep.  Arne was still waters.  And in his heart and in his mind, he stood beside the still waters with His Shepherd.  Whether he was bowling with friends, or walking along with the little children he loved to have visit.  And His Shepherd on Wednesday reached out and took Arne into His arms and brought Him home just as He had promised to do from the moment of His baptism all those years before.  And now Arne waits with all the saints the joyful fulfillment of the REST of the Lord’s promise:  the resurrection of this body and the life everlasting in the Kingdom where he will ever sing praises to his Lord.  Let us learn from this silent, strong man of faith, to hold tightly to those words of Jesus that can give us a like victory, a like faith, a like unshakable peace.  Amen.

Arnold F Hellmann, 85, of Worden, Ill., died Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Ill. He was born Oct. 5, 1926, in Hamel, Ill., the son of the late Adolph C. and Lillian W. M. (Reising) Hellmann.

Mr. Hellmann was born in Hamel and attended St. Paul Lutheran and Hamel Public Schools. He worked the family farm. He joined the U.S. Army and served from 1945 to 1947. He later attended Diesel Mechanic School and worked on some farms and later worked as a mechanic for Frank Lynn Ford Tractor in East Alton. 

He was a member of Saint Paul Lutheran Church. 

He is survived by three sisters, Esther Uphoff of Bedford, Texas, and Mildred Turley of Hurst, Texas and Lucille (Bill) Masters of St. Louis, Mo.; two brothers, Carl (Marlene) Hellmann of Worden, Ill. and Louis (Pat) Hellmann of Worden, Ill.; one sister-in-law, Nancy Hellmann of Glen Carbon, Ill. and many nieces and nephews.

Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by two sisters, Elsie Hellmann and Irma Wuehler; two brothers, Harold Hellmann and Edwin Hellmann; two brothers-in-law, Ralph Turley and Earl Wuehler; one nephew, Daniel Masters; and two nieces, Yvonne Uphoff and Vanessa Weis. 

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