In Memoriam ☩ Henry Rahn
☩ In Nomine Iesu ☩
The world wants us to think that death is natural. It isn’t. Life is not a circle. It’s a straight line. We were created to live, and to live without end. We only die because of sin—the sin of Adam passed on from generation to generation and our own actual sins. In this way, death is always a passage, but it isn’t always a passage to a better place. Some people die and go to Hell. And that, too, is most unnatural. For we were created not only to live and to live forever but also to live with God.
Death is overcome and Hell is escaped by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in our place. He has paid the price for our transgressions. He forgives all who believe and trust in Him, all who confess their sins, where they have done wrong, desiring that those sins be removed from them as far as the East is from the West. All who so believe and so confess do not die. They pass through death into life. For Jesus brings them to the place He has prepared for them with His Blood. That life, lived in glory and in bliss, is as life was meant to be: full and complete, without sickness or regret, without sorrow, loneliness, or distress. There man is as he was meant be, as he was created to be: in communion with the Holy Trinity, forever perfect and holy, forever at peace and in joy.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17).
Henry lived by these words. But more than that, he died by these words. He confessed his sins and desired that the blood Christ poured out from His cross cover them all. Henry desired that everything that he had done against God’s Word, from his youth until now, be taken away and that he be cleansed by blood that cries out a better word than that of Abel. For he knew that the only sins that damn us are those we will not let Jesus take away. In this way, we can find some joy in the fact that Henry was as headstrong as he was. For if there is something to be headstrong about it is this fact: that if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Henry was cleansed, washed clean by the blood of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He does not perish but awaits that life in eternity prepared for all who believe in the Son the Father sent into this world to save it, to save Him, to save you.
Part of that headstrong nature came in something he would always say. You can imagine his crooked smile as he said it. “If Henry Rahn says he’s gonna do it. You can count on it. You can take that to the bank.” Henry was made good on his word. But there is one who is even better than Henry at keeping His Word—the Lord, our God, the most holy Trinity. And it is because of this fact, that the Lord keeps His Word and delivers on His promises, that Henry now rests. He sleeps. He awaits that time when we will all be changed, when in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet the perishable will put on the imperishable and the mortal will put on immortality. Then we will say without tears or sorrow “O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54–55)
But now it still stings; now it still hurts because now we still mourn. And even though we mourn, we do not mourn as those who have no hope, nor is our joy of what will be taken away from us. So we are sad, but we do not despair. For we believe in Jesus. We are sad that Henry is no longer here. We miss both him and Shirley. But we believe that we will see them again. This is not the end. There will be a reunion in heaven in the age to come, in the resurrection of the dead. We are not sad for Henry. We are happy for him. We rejoice that he is now reunited with his father and his mother, with his wife, Shirley, free from the sorrows of this world and pain, that his mind is clear and his heart and arms are strong once again. His joy is full.
But his joy is not yet complete. It is not tinged with sorrow as is ours, but it is not yet complete either. For you are not yet with him. His soul has gone already to the mansion prepared for him by our Lord’s blood. He is at peace and joy in his Savior’s home. We lay his body into the ground, but it will not stay there. He will rise. He will be perfected. His body will be reunited to his soul, and Henry shall at last be whole, free, healthy, and fulfilled. Then his joy will be complete. For then all the dead will rise. And those who believe in Christ, even you, who have been washed from your sins by His wounds in water and blood, who have heard His voice and known His love in His Word, they shall be given eternal life. They shall join Henry and all the saints. For Henry is a saint of Jesus Christ.
He is a saint because he was made holy, innocent and righteous, not by his works, but by the work of God the Father in His Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Henry was a saint because God claimed him as His own child, placed His own name upon him, ushered him through life and now through death. He was a saint because God did not count his sins against him, but through confession and holy absolution took away his sins and put in its place the robe of Christ’s righteousness and holiness. He was a saint because he had been joined to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism. And he is a saint now in heaven for the same reason. And he will be forever.
So Henry is not dead. He is asleep, awaiting the sound of the last trumpet. Though asleep, he lives. He lives because Jesus who died also lives. He has passed through. He has gone the way that Jesus went, following Him through death into life. And this way you know also. It is Jesus Christ our Lord. We wait for him. So let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (Is 25:9), for Henry and for us. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57). He does all things well. Amen.