Angels to Beckon Me Nearer

Note: This is the message I shared with the Krueger Family at the funeral service for the matriarch of their family. Ruth – and her husband, Pastor Harold – served at St. Matthew for fifty years.

A little over a year ago, we celebrated the life and faith and ministry of Pastor Harold Krueger.

Harold Krueger was a man of God. And by the grace of God he had “beautiful feet” in the sense of Romans 10:15, “And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

His life was lived “Telling the Good News About Jesus.” A simple man, God led him to bring the Good News about Jesus to the United States. Harold preached the Gospel in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Harold and I were brothers in the faith and in the ministry. But Harold also was a man who shared with me the Good News. He prayed for me, supported me as good and faithful pastors do for their people. God truly blessed me through Harold and I thank God for the time I had with him.

And Ruth also has a very special place in my heart – as I’m sure she does in yours as well.

Being a pastor is one thing. Being a pastor’s wife is something else!

As pastors, we go where we are sent. We serve where we are called.

But a pastor’s wife isn’t sent or called – at least not in the same way.

A pastor’s wife follows her husband. She goes where he goes.

Ruth followed Harold – gladly, I might add. And while every pastor serves the congregation to which the Holy Spirit calls him willingly, I think this can be said with greater clarity and deeper meaning for the pastor’s wife.

Her passion was in sharing the Good News about Jesus. Because Ruth loved children she taught Sunday School for many years. But six children were especially dear to her David, Paul, Mark, Kaye, Gail and Debra. Also her twenty-seven grandchildren, and an ever-growing number of great-grandchildren.

One of the stories that Ruth was fond of telling was when she was first starting out as a pastor’s wife. She was asked by the people she and Harold were first serving in Kinde, Michigan to provide a dish for a church dinner. Ruth wanted to please her new brothers and sisters in Christ and prepared a bean dish.

At least she attempted to prepare a bean dish. Not really learning how to cook growing up – at least this is how she related the story to me – she didn’t know you were supposed to soak the beans before cooking. She told me that this failure led her to substitute canned beans for the dish at the last minute.

She wanted to please her new church family and help her husband in his new ministry there. I can easily see how, for Ruth and Harold, this was at first a “time to cry” but soon after – and for their rest of their lives – a “time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

That’s what pastors’ wives do – they help and support their husbands as best they can. Ruth did this throughout her life for Harold and the churches they served. They may have cried at times. But they also laughed many times

Another way that Ruth served the church and supported Harold was by serving in the various ladies’ ministries in the church. Ladies Aid. Ladies Evening Guild, and – closest to her heart – the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

I will always remember Ruth wearing purple – much like Lydia in the Book of Acts. Purple is the color of the LWML. The mission of the LWML – and Ruth’s personal mission – is to affirm each woman’s relationship with Christ, encouraging and equipping women to live out their Christian lives in active mission ministries and to support global missions.

This is why Ruth and her family have designated your memorials to this important ministry here at St. Matthew – so that other’s may know the power of faith in Jesus Christ and the joy of sharing the Gospel with the entire world!

Ruth’s relationship with Jesus Christ was evident to all who knew her – and to many who did not! Ruth’s relationship with Jesus was also very special – as it is for all of us who have a relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, as we heard in the Gospel reading this morning. On November 30, 1930 Jesus called Ruth by name and from that moment on it was a powerfully true statement to say, “Jesus knew her and she knew him” (John 10:14).

Jesus Christ laid down his life for Ruth, taking all her sin away – just as he did for each and every one of us. Ruth dedicated her entire life, ministry, and marriage to showing this powerful truth and sharing it with everyone she met.

In this respect, Ruth was an angel. Not in the sense that so many think of angels today – that when a good person dies God makes them an angel in heaven.

No, rather, Ruth was an angel in the truest sense – she was a messenger of the Good News. So was Harold and they both lived their lives being messengers. One of their last messages was to my wife and I. We spent the Sunday afternoon before Christmas 2017 with Harold and Ruth. Toward the end of our conversation – over coffee and cake – Harold knew that his time here was coming to a close. He shared with me what he looked forward to hearing upon entering the Church Triumphant, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” As Harold shared that with us, Ruth reached over and put her hand on his harm, looked at him and said, “Me, too.”

Angels also held a special place in Ruth’s heart and life. She told me – and so many of you, I’m sure – of the time an angel saved her and her children from the house fire right next door to us.

The Parsonage that she and Harold raised their family in – the one where my family and I now live – was not the original parsonage. The original home that stood there was a two-story house that – one Advent– caught on fire. Ruth and Paul had to be rescued from outside one of the second story bedrooms. She told me that it was an angel that warned her of the fire and led her out of the window and onto the roof.

This is what God’s angels do for us. They protect us and lead us as messengers of God. Ruth believed this with all her heart and anyone who knows her knows her love of angel figurines and pictures that express this love and belief.

Angels served as God’s messengers throughout the Old Testament, culminating with Gabriel’s message to Mary and to Joseph and to the Shepherds. Ruth and Harold made five visits to the Holy Land where so many of these messages were first conveyed.

That’s what Ruth and Harold both did – served as God’s messengers to beckon others closer to God – as the hymn says, “Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee” (Nearer My God to Thee, Stanza 3).

One last message from Ruth today is just that. She would beckon us nearer to our God.

On the Ruth’s and Harold’s tombstone you’ll see these words, “Together Forever.” In fact, this last year was perhaps the longest time Ruth and Harold spent apart in the last 70 years or so.

Our comfort today is not only are they together (again) forever, but so we will be together forever with them and all those who fall asleep in Jesus.

Until that day, I pray we listen to the message of Ruth and always draw nearer to God, believing in Jesus, and sharing the Gospel in all that we say and do.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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