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Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

ELCA — Roseville, Minnesota — Established 1957

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Pastor Andrew Rogness Memorial

During his illness, Pastor Andrew Rogness prepared remarks which were read at his memorial service. Andrew's lifelong friend, Rev. Wee, eulogized him at the July 6th memorial service.

50th Anniversary Celebration

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

Sermon

By Reverend Morris O. Wee — July 6, 2010

Andrew Rogness Memorial Service at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church

Patti, Joel, Louise, Stephen, Sarah, other family and friends of Andrew Rogness, may you know the grace and peace and love of God in whom we live and move and have our being.

When we hear Andrew’s remarks, a kind of manifesto of his beliefs, we hear very clearly the steady base notes that play no matter what other melodies he makes.

Those notes are love and gratitude.

Love at the center of life. Love at the center of God.

Gratitude to God for everything.

This note is echoed by one of the standard inscriptions on Norwegian gravestones: “Tak for alt.” Thanks for everything.

And Andrew extended that love and that gratitude to you—to Patti, to Joel and Stephen, to his family, to his friends, to his pets, to his surroundings, to all of God’s world. Tak for alt.

Patti, Joel, and Stephen told me that he had two lines that they heard every day, so much so that they would joke about them.

First was, “It’s a beautiful day! I love this steady rain”. Or, “I love a blizzard. It’s a beautiful day.” To Andrew, every day was a gift. Every day was beautiful.

The other line came at the end of the evening meal. “Thanks for a great dinner.” Every day; regardless of the menu. Then he would add, “I must have been really hungry.”

Many of you will have noted during his long illness that Andrew never complained. He addressed that, too, in his remarks. “My heart is full,” he said.

It was Andrew’s gift to celebrate what he had, rather than to wish for what he didn’t have. Tak for alt.

Andrew and I have been friends since a little before we were born.

I associate his sense of God’s endless grace and unconditional love with some of the experiences we shared at Kabekona Lake and in the boundary waters.

You couldn’t know Andrew long without hearing about Kabekona, the place of idyllic summer vacations, of extended family that extended literally along a mile or 3 of lakeshore, of hanging out on Tallakson’s raft, and swimming, and skiing, of heading down the channel into another world of cattails and red winged blackbirds and turtles and water lilies and beavers and horseflies.

We lived on the water.

Here’s the routine I remember best from our childhood at Kabekona. At our cabin, we slept late. Then I would get up, eat breakfast, and do my required one hour of work.

Then I would push out my little red boat and motor down the shore for Andrew’s dock, where I would tie it up and head up the stairs to the Rogness cabin. I would climb the ladder up to the loft where Andrew slept, and wake him up. Then his mother Nora would invite me to breakfast with Andrew.

Usually, then, we would head out to the raft, where we would gradually be joined by the others in our crowd and plan the day.

A few years later, Andrew was working regularly in the boundary waters, and making a canoe for Patti, and Seagull Lake and the adjacent world of the boundary waters joined Kabekona among his sacred places. (Although, to be honest, I am not sure there is any place that Andrew did not regard as sacred.)

Over the years, Andrew has brought many people with him into these places where God’s beneficence and indwelling are so powerfully experienced.

Andrew’s body has been cremated, and he has asked that the ashes be strewn on the water at the mouth of Kabekona creek, which flows into Leech Lake, and into the Mississippi, and into the gulf, and into the sea.

For Andrew, there is no greater honor and privilege than to be reabsorbed into this creation that has sustained him in this life, to reenter the waters that have borne him all these years, fully united with the mystery and holiness of god’s creation.

And he carries with him hope, too, for the next part of life, hope of reunion with Al and Nora and Paul and so many ancestors in the faith.

We have many reasons to join him in this hope, which is nurtured in us by scripture and the testimony of the community of faith, and above all, by our experience of a god whose love knows no bounds.

This hope is nurtured, too, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the baptismal waters that have carried us all our lives.

It is nearly irresistible for me as a Christian pastor to devote the rest of this sermon to the promises of holy baptism, which are linked to the blessing Andrew knew at Kabekona and in its community, and at wilderness canoe base and in its community, linked to the life-giving water he found wherever he swam or canoed.

We cling to the promises of baptism, and to the identity it gives us as beloved children of god.

But here’s the problem. Someone might hear that and wonder if it means that God’s love and grace do not extend to the one who is not baptized.

That is not good enough for Andrew. You see it on the back of the bulletin—he hopes for reunion with loved ones after death “just as a loving God will work it out for all humans.”

He says in his remarks that he “struggled to keep a notion of God big enough to satisfy unanswerable questions.”

Well, Andrew struggled with some hard questions, yes. We do too. But there is no doubt that the God he knew is big enough to extend grace and love to the whole human family, regardless of baptism or creed or practices. Andrew’s God is big enough to love everyone into eternal life.

And, by the way, Andrew’s God is my God and your God, too.

So what is ahead for Andrew and for you and for me?

To be taken back into God’s creation, reabsorbed into the divine in whom we live and move and have our being.

Humans returned to our source, according to the Genesis creation account. Humans back to humus.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes.

And beyond that we hope for the great and promised feast, with all our loved ones at the table, and Andrew is counting on dogs at the table too: Luther and Cinder and Belle. And not only that, but I am certain that he wants the loons, and the pines, and the lakes, and the rocks.

A new creation. No part of God’s creation excluded. Not one of you excluded either. Not one.

It is a spectacular and wondrous promise in which we live.

But what about our suffering and brokenness?

What about the oil spill, and cancer, and everything that is wrong with us and with this world?

What about death?

Our God is big enough for that, too, for all of it.

Big enough to embrace it and to redeem it.

The tree of life in the garden at the beginning in the Book of Genesis still stands in the city at the end of the Book of Revelation, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations, the healing of the whole world.

Jesus describes God’s kingdom as a great banquet.

I picture Andrew at that banquet today, and, after seven months without being able to eat, I’m thinking he’s enjoying it.

Can you hear him saying it? “Thanks for a great dinner. I must have been really hungry.”

I want to end with two stories.

The first happened at Kabekona when Andrew and I were 11 or 12. He writes about this in “crossing boundary waters.”

It was the last night of summer vacation. We were both heading back to our different cities in the morning, to start school.

We had finished our nightly party of popcorn, kool-aid, and card games. It was after midnight.

We walked home on the dirt road in the dark. We couldn’t see much, but we could walk that road with our eyes closed.

When we got to Andrew’s driveway, he said, “I’ll walk you down to your cabin.”

When we got to my driveway, I said, “I’ll walk you back to your place.”

It was a lovely night. The summer was ending. We must have walked back and forth 5 or 6 times.

We loved each other. We loved our summer at Kabekona. We didn’t want it to end.

The driveways to our cabins were even darker than the road, but we had nothing to fear from the driveways.

They led to a safe, warm, happy home and a loving family.

We just didn’t want to let go of what we had. We didn’t want it to end.

For many of us, life is like that. We cling to what we have, because we love it. Family and friends have treasured time with Andrew as we have walked with him through this illness.

What comes beyond this life is less clear to us. Even though we trust that the journey of death takes us home, even though we trust the promise of a warm and wonderful welcome, we want to delay it as long as we can.

On that summer night long ago, I don’t remember which one of us first headed down the dark driveway.

This time, it is Andrew who has taken that journey home before us. And, in faith, we trust he is home now. Safely, eternally, home.

The other story is also from Kabekona. It was last Wednesday evening, the day Andrew died.

My son Kai and I were down on the dock, watching the sun go down. Our cabin is next door to the cabin that Andrew and Patti have built.

It was a classic evening for the east shore of the lake: calm water, sun reflecting off the water making it warm at the shore despite the late hour and the setting sun. Three loons swam in front of Andrew’s place and yodeled.

Kai said, “Look at those clouds around the sun. If you open your eyes wide enough, it looks like a great white blossom with the sun at the center.”

And so it did. The clouds spread along the horizon and above the sun like intricate flower petals, spreading so wide your vision couldn’t quite contain it.

And I thought, Andrew has got to be loving this. Because this is how he looks at the world, opening his eyes wide, wide enough to see it as God’s great garden. Like the first garden of Genesis, like the eternal garden of Revelation.

I looked over at Andrew and Patti’s shore. There is a weathered bench there, the perfect place from which to watch the sunset.

The bench was empty.

Maybe today you and I feel as empty as that bench.

But God has given us another beautiful day. This is the day God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Even in our grief and loss, god gives a new day. Tak for alt.

And God gives us eyes wide enough to see that this creation is a miracle, a mystery, a blossom, a garden infused with divine life and love.

God has given you and me another day in this garden, with its morning dew and spilling oil, its joyful marriages and its heartbreaks, its births and its deaths —

And God is in all of it. Nothing in this broken, wonderful world, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.