I attended the funeral of a good friend today, a brother in Christ and in the Holy Office. The Reverend Ray Mueller was in his late 70s, and he served both actively and faithfully as a pastor for considerably longer than I've been alive. He was retired, ostensibly, two or three times over, but he sure didn't let the grass grow under his feet. He attended winkels more regularly than a lot of brothers I know who are still serving parishes; he came to contribute and to participate in discussions, and I always appreciated the wisdom and insight that shared with us younger men. He may have slowed down somewhat in the latter part of his life, but he had decades of experience to draw upon, and he remained thoughtful and conscientious and on his toes.
One of the things I always appreciated about Ray was the fact that, for all his seniority, he never failed to listen carefully to what his younger colleagues had to say; he wasn't afraid to rethink his position and to learn new things from others. He was passionate, surely; confident of his faith in the Word of God; solid as the day is long, and maybe even a little stubborn, as old German Lutherans tend to be. But he wasn't hard-headed or obstinate, and he was never rude that I ever heard or witnessed. He was good-natured and good-humored in all his dealings.
Ray wasn't shy about participating in the political life of the Church on earth. Yet, anyone who might suggest that he was motivated by political ambition or any such desire for power and position, clearly didn't know the Reverend Ray Mueller. I've never known anyone more impassioned by the Gospel and driven by faithfulness to the Word of the Lord. What Ray cared about was Jesus, and confessing Jesus in all the world. It was as simple as that. He was zealous, enthusiastic and energetic for missions and outreach, and it wasn't just rhetoric with him; nor was it a gimmick, but honest-to-goodness, roll-up-your-sleeves preaching and teaching, and the hard work of bringing the Word to those who weren't going to hear it or find it on their own. Ray's contributions to the Church's earthly polity and governance were considerable and blessed, but I am most grateful for the good example he gave of genuinely confessional evangelicalism.
I'm quite convinced that it was because Ray knew and loved the Gospel of his Lord Jesus Christ, that he was consistently pleasant and jovial. He had an endearing chuckle that often preceded his answers to questions or his comments in discussions. He took things quite seriously, but he wasn't morbid or down in the mouth about the good word he was given to confess. He lived in the joy and freedom of the Gospel, and it simply exuded from him all the time; he wore it on his sleeve, and in the warmth of his smile you saw a glimmer of his peace and happiness in Christ. I count it among the blessings in my life that, for the past many years, I have frequently been privileged to share the pleasure of Ray's company. That's been a treat, and I will really miss those opportunities, as I will miss my friend and colleague, Ray.
I'm pleased to say that Ray's surviving son, the Reverend David Mueller, follows in his father's footsteps. Not simply in the Office of the Ministry, but in his commitment to the Word of God, his deep love for the Gospel, his evangelical spirit, and his ready laugh. I'm glad to count Dave among my friends and colleagues, and I pray that he and I and many others will be granted to serve our generation and those that follow us as faithfully as his father did. I felt for Dave at the funeral; for how could my heart not go out to my friend, now bereft of his Dad in this earthly life. But I was touched by the unaffected honesty of his emotions. He wears his heart on his sleeve, much like Ray did. So I was able to share with him the bittersweet joy of a Christian funeral, the mourning that is not without hope but weeps for a time while remaining in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. Thanks be to God, who has given us the Victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.