Thursday, July 6, 2017

Donald Eugene Gehres

Donald Eugene Gehres
Born: February 19, 1944
Baptized in Christ: May 5, 1944
Confirmed in Christ: June 30, 1965
With Christ in Peace: June 28, 2017
Committal: July 6, 2017

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. –John 3:16

Blessed are they that die in the Lord

Be still my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul; the hour is hastening on
Where we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. 1

Death is so limited…
It has not crippled love,
It has not shattered hope,
It has not corroded faith,
It has not eaten away peace
   Nor destroyed confidence.

It has not killed friendship,
It has not shut out memories,
It has not silenced courage,
It has not invaded the soul,
   Nor reduced eternal life.

It has not quenched the Spirit,
It cannot, has not,
  Nor will not lessen the power of the resurrection! 2

We knew this day would come. Don knew it too. There would be a time. When his end would come. We knew it too. When Don’s presence would be absent from us. And now we are here. With this reality. Don Gehres has been received into the hands of Jesus.  

He has been parted from us for a season. But soon will come that glorious day. When that call will come in our own lives. When we shall see Jesus - face to face. And then, we shall be together again. Never to be parted by time, distance, or space.    

I remember that afternoon. When he gave me the news. An aggressive tumor…inoperable… terminal. It was not a subject of “if.” It was matter of “when.” And so, he applied the words of the Psalm to his life. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” 

And that wisdom is simply this, Christ is always for you. Even in your darkest hours. Even when you feel like there is no help left. Yet we have this hope. Put your trust in Jesus. And He will lift you in His arms.  Christ remains present.  You can even glory in your weakness. For when you are weak. You are made strong by the power of Christ.  

I remember that afternoon Shirley. When you were given the news. All attempts of slowing the mass have failed. There were no other medical options available. So he moved home. To a safe environment. Where he could be surrounded by family, neighbors, and friends. 

Don had a sign posted on his refrigerator which read, ‘I want to grow old enough to be a burden to my children.” And while we might snicker at such a post - once again you have given our community an excellent example of what it means to be family. 

Shirley, you and Don took seriously your wedding vows. And in these past few years you have given us an example of what those vows mean, “to have and to hold… for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Jody, Todd, Scott.  By word and deed you have given us an excellent example of what it means to live the 4th commandment. You have shown us what it means to love - as you have given your Dad dignity, served and honored his wishes, holding him in love and esteem. True, these are easy words to say. It takes principle, love and care to carry them through.

Don was confirmed as an adult. On June 30, 1965 these words were given him, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” –John 3:16 

Yes, these are simple words. Words so familiar to us. Yet they are profound and so true. 

The Scriptures remind us, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:16-17) 

Yes, there is something more lasting, more powerful and greater than your sin. It is the love and compassion Jesus has for us sinners. While each of us were lost and steeped in sin, God our Father had a plan. A plan, which was in place, way before the dawn of time.

What God did not become. He could not save. And so, He comes into the world as one of us. To save us. Jesus came into the world. To be counted with sinners. To save sinners. 

At the right time, God our heavenly Father would send His only Son. Jesus would enter into our world. Breaking into time and space. He came to be your substitute. He would live the perfect life for you. He would die the death that you deserve. And there, at a cross, He would trade your sin, your misery and your guilt for His perfection and work out what you and I could never, ever do! 

Yes, Jesus has done for you better than what you could ever do for yourself. When settling the issue with sin, Jesus acts alone. He dealt with the issues of your brokenness Himself. Period. With no help from anyone. The Father sends His own Son to the cross. Jesus bore your sin. He carried it alone. – To the cross of Calvary. There He died for you. 

There He wins salvation for the entire world. And on the third day. He rose from the dead to prove to you that this freedom. This forgiveness. This new life. Has been credited to you.

God is completely responsible for your salvation. From front to back! You don’t one-day wake up and decide to follow Jesus – Rather, He plants the seed of faith in your heart by the power of His Holy Spirit. 

He then nourishes that faith by giving you His eternal Word, which is able to make you wise unto salvation. This is what St. Paul reminds us when he tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

I have had the privilege of knowing Don as his pastor the past thirty years. In a time in which our Friedheim family has enjoyed a period of tranquility and peace. That’s not to say that we’ve faced personal setbacks and occasional challenges. But for the most part, we’ve enjoy a time of serenity. 

However there have been periods of divergence and difference in our history. When such times of dispute happened. Don could be counted to take up a cause - especially for those who did not necessarily have a voice. Or, at least felt timid to speak. 

It did not matter to Don. Whether he agreed with them or not. That was not the point. What mattered to him was the people’s opinions were heard. Because, in his mind, people mattered. He took seriously the words of Solomon, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and the needy.”– Proverbs 31:8-9

Don understood a great truth. Through our work. We are a part of a greater kingdom. We live simply by grace. We are here to offer hints of hope.

We seek God in and through our particular vocations and our place in life. Our task is not to somehow inject God into our work. But to join God. In the work He is already doing. In and through our lives.   In short, Don becomes a sermon in shoes.3

Don understood grace. He attempted to live gracefully among us. He had a big heart. An infectious laugh. He loved life. As Don would always say, ‘Today’s a great be a great day!’ Summed up for us by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. “I have been crucified with Christ. That is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith. By adhering to.  Relying upon.  And completely trusting in the Son of God. Who loved me. And gave Himself up for me.” 

Don knew the Savior’s voice. Now he sees His face.

Because Jesus lives. Don lives in Him. Because Jesus reigns. Don reigns with Him. Because Jesus holds all things. He will hallow you. In the palm of His hands.   
Words –1,575
Passive Sentences –4%
Readability – 86.6
Reading Level -3.4

1. Be Still my Soul Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
2.  Unknown source, © Common Domain
3. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life.- Tish Harrison Warren  © 2016 Intervarsity Press   pg. 94

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