These thoughts aren't written well and I almost didn't post them. Attempting to summarize the impact of a giant on one's life in 650 words is a laughable endeavor. However, to take the words of a great man out of context, "Here I stand, I can do no other."
When I was 8, I saw him as an immoveable rock; a super hero in whom I could trust - even though physically he didn’t look like one due to his polio-stricken legs.
When I was 10, he was a prophet who spoke on behalf of God about my future, telling me during a Saturday catechism class not to make any career plans because God had already chosen me to be a pastor one day.
By the time I was 12, he had already been my first seminary professor for two years, offering advice and wise tips about how pastors should deal with opinionated people and difficult situations. Even though I didn’t think I had any gifts or graces to be a pastor, if Pastor Ed said I could do it, I trusted him.
When my immediate family was falling apart, he became a source of stability and strength, allowing me to stay with his family (and my friend James, his youngest son) for a couple of weeks at a time. Actually, the entire family accepted me and allowed me to be part of their madcap life.
This week, Pastor Edgar Homrighausen rested from his many years of fruitful labors and entered eternity with God. I’m thankful his 90+ year-old body is no longer laboring, but I’m finding it difficult to process his death. My lifelong mentor and pastor is now gone in the same week I begin life not as a parish pastor but as a seminary professor (I’m trying not to read too much into that).
There’s no way I can recall the many times his wisdom came back to my memory when I’ve faced pastoral issues throughout the years. Three years ago, for example, our church helped someone who had a mental illness. We welcomed her, I baptized her, we supported her financially, and then one day she showed up to my church office in a maniacal state. As I received her curses and threats, I remembered a conversation from long ago.
“See that woman in that pew back there?” Pastor Ed asked me when I was about 11, “She’s crazy. She was yelling and screaming at me earlier. She said she’s going to kill me.”
“Are you scared?” I asked.
“Nah! She won’t touch me. Remember that people always lash out at the ones they love the most.”
I told the screaming woman in my church office that if she couldn’t calm down, I wasn’t going to listen to her. “I’m not going to pay attention to you while you’re acting like that. Come back tomorrow if you want to.” To my surprise, she turned around and left the building. Thanks, Pastor Ed.
From dealing with disruptive people, to preaching with uncompromising boldness, to standing for what is right even if the denominational leaders didn’t like it, to dozens of other life and ministry lessons, I’m just realizing that Pastor Ed’s ministry has served as a model for my own ministry vocation. I pray I've been able to have a tenth of the impact on other people that he had. Then again, there will never be another Pastor Ed Homrighausen.
This is a bold statement, but I cannot imagine where my life would have ended up had Pastor Ed not been in it when I was a child. I am merely one of hundreds of people he mentored throughout the years. And although I haven't seen him in a decade, knowing that he’s not breathing the same air that I am anymore makes me feel just a little bit alone. However, what warms my heart is that after being a faithful servant of God, Pastor Ed has entered a place he's preached and taught about for at least 75 years, and his frail body has now been made whole.
Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Now get out of that wheelchair… and run.
(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts