Some of you I’ve known about 6 years. Some of you I’ve known a year or two. Some of you I’ve only known a few months. Some of you I just met. But one thing is obvious, and I think I’ve known and perhaps even experienced this all along: the love, honor, respect you have for this man you call “Butch,” Charles Walter Buttgereit, Sr.
That’s still him. That’s still his body. His soul has gone to heaven to be with Jesus, but this is still his body. It’s not supposed to end this way. It’s not going to end this way. For this body will live again. Soul and body will be reunited. God never intended for us to die, so He won’t let us stay dead forever. Christ Jesus will come again. And on that day Butch’s own eyes will see what he faithfully confessed: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
I could tell he loved his country very much. His room in Lund said so; the Purple Heart he and his fellow sailors were awarded confirms it. So we give God thanks once more for his service to his country. But these United States of America were not the most important thing to Butch. The name of this congregation, The English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer of Oakmont and Verona, hints at what was, and what still is the most important thing for him and all the saints in heaven.
The most important thing is Our Redeemer. What do I mean by that? Do I mean this congregation? No, I mean Him in Whose honor this congregation is named. That’s why Butch was a faithful and devoted member, serving this congregation in so many ways throughout his life and teaching his family to do the same. He did so much for this church and school, down on 4th St., then while this church and school building was being built, I’m sure when we purchased the Shenandoah campus, and certainly day in and day out. His legacy continues in you, his children and grandchildren, as you imitate him in so many ways, ways I can’t fully know or understand. It wasn’t about this congregation, as much as he truly loved it. It was about his Redeemer, your Redeemer, our Redeemer.
Jesus is encouraging us to let Him, Our Redeemer, be the most important thing in our lives in Butch’s confirmation verse. I wonder if Pastor Walker gave it to him on a whim, if he did it because he thought it would fit young Butch, or if he did it to encourage him or even transform him. Whatever the reason, it fit very well. Jesus said to His disciples on Maundy Thursday, and He still says to us, the sheep of His pasture (my translation): “I AM The Vine, you the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him this one bears much fruit because without Me you are able to do nothing.”
“Remain in Me and I in you.” That’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s not about finding something to do for God because you’re afraid if you don’t you’ll be in trouble. It’s not about earning something, anything, from God. It’s about Jesus, Jesus only. That’s what Butch was confessing by means of everything he did here. It wasn’t about him. It was for the good of the congregation, but what’s good for the congregation is only good for the congregation if it’s confessing Jesus, Our Redeemer.
What’s so important about Jesus, Our Redeemer? St. Paul says to us: “The wages of sin is death.” We can see that. We were warned this was coming 8 months ago. You could see it as he continued to lose weight. He didn’t want to die. It’s not natural. It’s not what God intended. God doesn’t like it. Maybe that’s why Butch kept right on living last week as he continued to pay no attention to what we were being told. He kept on living with his family around him returning to him the love he always showed them as he patiently waited for God’s holy angel to take him to Jesus’ nearer presence. But it had to happen. He was a sinner because he is descended from Adam. God’s Law said he deserved, we all deserve, to die. That’s why we’re here today in this church he loved so much, about to take him to his grave.
But Butch knew how, in heaven above he still knows how, he is going to escape that grave. He knew and still knows that his Redeemer, your Redeemer, our Redeemer lives. That implies that Our Redeemer died and rose again. Christ Jesus, Our Redeemer, bore all our sins. He was punished for them all. He suffered hell upon The Cross so none of us would have to. He died so we wouldn’t stay dead. He rose to bring us to life everlasting. He purchased and won Butch from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious Blood and His innocent Suffering and Death. By His Death, He has transformed our death.
So we take Butch to the cemetery today. We lay him next to his beloved Jeanne, with their Richard and many more from both their family and this parish. But we do this in the sure and certain hope that Our Redeemer lives. He did not stay dead. He rose on the third day, and lives and reigns unto all eternity. Since Butch remained in Jesus, Jesus remained in Butch, and He can’t leave behind any who live in Him. So He says to you today: “Butch is only sleeping.”
How can He say that? Because He will wake him. The trumpet of the last day will sound, and all the dead will rise. Their souls and bodies will be reunited, and the bodies of the faithful will be glorified. They shall be like their risen Redeemer. What we shall be, what he shall be, cannot be expressed in human words. It will be so much better than what we are now.
So remain in Our Redeemer. Stay close to Him. Let nothing get between you and Him. Hear and believe His Word. Receive The Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Through these Means He comes to us and lives in us; He forgives us and gives us eternal life and salvation. Through these Means He crushes the devil’s power over us and promises, pledges, to us that a Christian’s death is no longer punishment for his sin, but is now transformed into rescue from his sin.
Butch definitely wanted to keep on living. Thankfully, death is only temporary. In Christ Jesus, Our Redeemer, life is victor over death. Our congregation says good-bye for now to a beloved member and friend and relative, but he will not be forgotten. We won’t forget him. But more importantly, Christ Jesus, Our Redeemer, won’t forget him. We bury him, but Christ our God will raise him up.
For His Death has swallowed up death. In vain it rages o’er us. He died and rose for Butch – thought of Him as He hung there. He baptized Charles Walter Buttgereit through the hands and voice of his servant, Pastor Lindenmeyer, on Advent Sunday 1919. So He won’t forget about him on the last day, that day which Advent looks forward to. His Jesus, your Jesus, Our Redeemer won’t forget any who believe in Him. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Since He lives, we too shall live.