Remembering the Dead and the Service of Praise and Thanksgiving for Ronald Feuerhahn

The Service of Praise and Thanksgiving for Ronald Raymond Feuerhahn was held on 17 March 2015 at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, where Dr. Feuerhahn served for 22 years. The press announcement about his funeral can be found here on Concordia Seminary’s website. Several years ago, the students of Dr. Feuerhahn prepared a Festschrift for him titled, Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay? (This book is available as an ePub and on Kindle from CPH.) Of course, the death of every saint is precious in the eyes of the Lord, but when a teacher of the church enters his eternal rest the effect is felt on a broader scale. A teacher of the church affects his students, his follower teachers, the pastors of the church, and indirectly all the congregation members who had pastors taught by him. Because of this effect, the Scriptures urge the church to take caution in appointing teachers of the church (“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1).

Unlike the Roman Catholic church, Lutherans do not pray to the dead. However, there is a proper remembrance of those who died in the faith, a thanksgiving for the work that the Lord has done in their lives, and even an imitation of how those in the faith who died lived their lives. Children commonly do this by imitating their parents, just as students do their teachers. Hermann Sasse, in Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Volume III (available from CPH in hardcover and on Kindle) wrote about remembering the dead. In his essay “The Remembrance of the Dead in the Liturgy,” Section 8, Sasse writes:

“Let me say a word about that which is specifically important for our death-filled century. The remembrance of the dead needs to be revived in the church. It is one of the bases of the powerful attraction of Catholicism in our day that it has preserved this remembrance, while Protestantism, including Lutheranism, has lost it. Therefore, despite all assurances to the contrary, Protestantism has to a greater or lesser extent become a this-side-of-eternity religion. It was the task of the Reformation to dissolve the symbiosis which in Catholicism brought about a point of contact between the Christian faith and pagan presuppositions about the hereafter. The result of this paganism in the church’s faith and practice has been all too evident; it is no accident that the Reformation began precisely on an All Saints’ Eve (October 31, 1517) with a protest against he fearful commerce which was designed to accomplish the salvation of souls.”

Dr. Sasse goes on to point out how Dr. Martin Luther’s liturgical reforms of the church refocused the church on the purpose of Holy Communion, “forgiven sinners who in the reception of the Lord’s true body and blood are made one with all members of the church, all the saints in heaven and on earth, as the Body of Christ.”

On Sunday morning, in the Proper Preface in the Communion liturgy, the pastor says, “…therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name ever more saying:” Then the congregation sings the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth…” Although dead separates us from the saints in heaven, we are untied together in the body of Christ. Sasse concludes his letter, “It is my hope that the considerations of this letter, for which you waited so long, and longer than you should have, will contribute to the clarification of our thoughts about one of the most difficult theological questions and help us rightly to exercise the church’s ministry of consolation in a cheerless world.”