22 March 2020

In Memoriam HCM+

Yesterday the Church lost a great churchman: former Synodical First Vice President and former Southern Illinois District President and Pastor Herbert C. Mueller, Jr.

I've pondered for a while how to even begin to write about him. I remember when I first heard the diagnosis of the glioblastoma one thought above all others came to mind: we did this to him.

You see, Herb had a huge heart. He wanted more than anything in all the world for everyone to believe in Jesus and to love and forgive one another; and he served a Synod that is more often known for its squabbling and heated arguing, especially us pastors. I worked with him a bit on the Koinonia Project. I watched how he dealt with it up close.

He tried to hold us all together in his heart all the time, and I can't but believe that the pressure took its toll on him. He knew the answer was the love of Christ and he wouldn't let us settle for anything else. But the love of Christ always leaves its scars. He loved and went on loving no matter what was dished his way (and sometimes it was quite awful). It was a remarkable life of graciousness. I am not exaggerating one bit; and it was only possible by divine grace. He lived in grace. Nonstop.

I would say that I contributed more than my fair share to his gray hairs over the years, but of course, he had almost no gray! But when I struggled with my calling as a Lutheran pastor and was prepared to step down, THIS man prayed with me, studied the Book of Concord with me, encouraged me and loved me. There were those who called on him to remove me from office instantly. He wouldn't listen to that call. Instead, he did what he always did in such instances: he loved me through the crisis. I still remember when it was over virtually yelling at him: “Well, I'm staying a Lutheran. But don't you DARE ask me for help with anything in this Synod. Not one thing. I'm done.” He was so gentle and kind and gracious. “I'm just glad you're staying and I receive it as an answer to my prayers and we'll leave it at that for now.”

And I know he never stopped praying for me. And when—of all things!—I ended up working with him at the International Center of Synod, I thought so often how God must have a very odd sense of humor indeed. Herb and I did laugh about that more than once.

It breaks my heart that this man gave his all to the Synod, to the Church, and was just set to retire when he was diagnosed with that horrid thing. He was so ready to spend some years in retirement with his wondrous soul-mate and help-meet, Faith. Well, thanks be to God an eternity of joy still awaits them both. And greater than any earthly retirement could ever be!

Thank You, Lord, for giving us Herb.

Thank You, for making him Your own dear little lamb, marked with Your name.

Thank You for his gentle ways, his always kind words, his joy and delight in Your Word and how he had committed so very much of it to his heart that he could (and DID) share it in an instant with any in need.

Thank You for his service to Your people as pastor, as District President, as First Vice President. Thank you for his work on the Koinonia Project, and all the pastors that he faithfully saw brought into our Synod through Colloquy, and for all his behind the scenes peace-making in our Synod.

Thank You for his beautiful wife and his family, and for the depth of his love for them. Thank you for his mom, his siblings, and all his relatives, and for the care he never ceased to show for them all, particularly that they know and love and delight in You and Your forgiveness.

Thank You for his powerful address to our Synod last summer; thank You for giving him such a clear witness and the strength to deliver it.

Thank You for making him Your own in the Baptismal waters, for all the times You fed Him in the Eucharist with the medicine of immortality which a man may eat of and not die, but live in You forevermore; thank You for Your never-failing presence with him through all the years of his pilgrimage, and above all thank You for his Baptism now completed, and thank You for the promise of the resurrection and reunion in heaven with all who die in faith in You.

...and then from death awaken me, that these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, my Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, and I will praise Thee without end.