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Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

ELCA — Roseville, Minnesota — Established 1957

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Pastor Andrew Rogness: Memorial Remarks

During his illness, Pastor Andrew Rogness prepared remarks that were read at his memorial service.

50th Anniversary Celebration

Our 2007 Anniversary was a great success.  Please see the Anniversary page, invitation, and submitted memories for details.

My Comments

By Andrew Rogness — August 29, 2009

Andrew’s comments were read at his Memorial Service on July 6, 2010, by Pastor Anita Beste; his colleague of nine years at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Roseville, Minnesota.

I am taking my own advice that I’ve given many — "Why not write out something that can be read at your funeral or memorial service? Why depend on some loose-cannon in-law to volunteer to "summarize your life?"

So… a few thoughts

First of all, it is a blow to be diagnosed with stage four cancer at age 59. There’s no getting around that. A future that stretched ahead has shrunk, intensifying what is treasured and what might be lost. Yet through all the thoughts and feelings that pervade daily in my life now, there has been a constant and dominant theme — that is one of gratitude for the tremendous gift of life I have had. Of course I want more, and I suppose I could feel cheated if I don’t live many more years. But, oh, what a good life you — family and friends — have given me. My heart is full.

Dad once wrote that "love" is too small a word to express all that one means to another. And while that is true, I think that in some small measure I ought to depart from my roots in the stoic piety of immigrant Norwegians, to give voice to what’s at the core of God’s being and which God has imbued within each one of us — the capacity for love we have for one another and for God in all of creation.

What ought to be the birthright of every child has been mine in great abundance — trustworthy, graceful and loving parents. I have had the added bonus of the five siblings to look up to, and emulate, and who have sustained our parents’ legacy of love. What a joy and gift this has been. I have been spoiled rotten as the youngest in this train of grace.

With every addition, our family has extended itself with blessings. And at times of sorrow and struggle, has exercised compassion. Our lake homes, a gift and ongoing legacy of Mom & Dad, have been a magnet for family strength. Not as a retreat from the world, but as a source of rejuvenation to give back to the world. As Dad said at Patti’s and my wedding — "to whom much is given, much is expected."

Was it providence or my dumb luck that Patti became the love of my life and my best friend? How can words ever be adequate to express what if has meant for me that she has been my biggest fan, that she’s had enough ego strength to match mine, that she has been wise with advice and justified in admonishment, that she has been tender and faithful in my care, that she has been devoted to our sons, and that her forgiving love has kept me on my feet and taught me to love her more deeply? I should have told you more often how much I love you.

Teaching confirmation classes the fourth commandment was one of my favorite lessons. I would tell classes to notice the language: "Honor your father and mother." Then I would tell them to notice the word was "honor" and not "obey." This always got a positive rise out of the class. I would then try to pull them back a bit from their imaginations of what this might mean to suggest this was an important challenge. The commandment raises the bar for us and calls on us to live our lives in such a way that we bring honor to our parents. Joel and Stephen, your mom and I love you and we delight in you. You have, and are leading your lives in ways that more than fulfill this commandment. Well done, and thank you!

And thank you for adding to our family wives that we admire, that we enjoy being with, who are so good for each of you and who are easy for us to love.

Through the years, and especially these last months, my family and I have felt such great love and support from so many — friends, church members, colleagues and medical staff. Your calls, prayers, cards, expressions of love and concern, have been and I trust will continue to be a source of comfort and strength for us. Thank you.

And now, a few thoughts on faith and vision — I am a preacher, after all!

With age, with increased awareness of the vastness of the universe, with an increased sense of mystery and with a growing sense of humility, I have often struggled to keep a notion of God big enough to satisfy unanswerable questions. I carry with me Annie Dillard’s perspective that "our lives are but a faint tracing on the surface of mystery." I find it ironic that my alma mater is named "Luther Theological Seminary" if by "theological," we can presume to say too much about God. Perhaps it would more aptly be named "Luther Theomysterium Seminary."

Faced with my finite limits, I find I occasionally apologize to God for not having a less questioning faith. Yet I still live contentedly following the enigmatic carpenter of Nazareth, and am comforted by the many I love and respect who do so as well.

I also am grateful that my Lutheran roots and theology have grown on me. I like that we are able to treasure scripture without worshipping it, that we are capable of having portions of scripture carry greater weight than other portions, and that we have room for inspiration that has come since the canon was set. I also believe our Lutheran church is poised to, and has the capacity to rise to the unique challenges of the 21st century — challenges never before seen in the human experience.

Most religions, and the origins of Lutheranism, are anthrocentric, focused on human issues of life and death and eternity. Luther renewed for us the gospel — the great message of God’s enduring love that secures eternal salvation as demonstrated in the person of Jesus. This core of our theology should function as a foundation for us — both as birthright and as last will and testament. It is a done deal and it should release us from the narrow confines of anthrocentric theology and life perspective, and make it possible for us to focus on a theocentric world view and understanding of our main purpose in life. God not only calls us to be stewards of creation and stewards of God’s presence in it, God also calls us to look upon creation through the mind and heart of God.

As God looks at creation, as God exists within creation, what might God be concerned about? As we look through God’s eyes, we must be deeply concerned for the health of creation.

There are realities now that have never been seen before. The human family has grown in numbers and in consumption of the earth in ways that endanger all of earth’s ecosystems and life. God is no more and no less present in humans than God is present in the glaciers or polar bears. God loves humans no more and no less than buffalo, the Chinook wind or whales.

As we continue to address human issues of poverty, of violence, of overpopulation, of hunger, of justice and peace, of discrimination and all the issues that press upon us, we must come to terms with the limits of human population growth and the fallacy that sees the earth’s resources as objects for human use and consumption. Unless we reverse our human numbers and avarice we will destroy God’s creation.

God is in all of creation. God loves all of creation. God gives humans the capacity of love. God moves in humans. Humans don’t have to be a cancer in creation. We have the wherewithal to love the earth back into balance and health. This, I believe, is the highest priority for the human family.

Finally, and once again, life is a precious gift. With all its uncertainties and even as I am mortal, I give thanks for being able to savor and reflect on the wonder of life. If there is nothing more, I give thanks to God. Yet I live with hope that I will be greeted by the company of saints eternal — Mom, Dad & Paul — just as a loving God will work it out for all humans. And, I even hope for other parts of creation to continue in a new reality — for I would love my dogs to be there too — gregarious Luther, intense Cinder, and gentle and sweet Belle.

OK. Enough said. I love you.

Andrew Rogness
August 29, 2009