Archive for August 2008

By Grace…What a Beautiful Way to See Clearly!

August 29, 2008

On 24 July 2008, the Rev. Bruce Ley, Superintendent of The Augustana Ministerium (TAM), sent the following to TAM’s Administrative Council, which we passed on to the members of TAM—an announcement that after five years of battling cancer, his dear wife, Mary, was now found to have cancer in her brain, as well. The manifestation of God’s focusing our brother on His grace in the midst of his wife’s and his bearing a cross so dreaded by the world seems, to me, a good starting point for the Ministerium’s new blog. As a body, we are about the theology of the cross, about seeing the work of our God in the things that repel Man (including even the Christian’s own flesh)—the trials that overwhelm him and the Media of Salvation that are so easily trivialized by him—and about encouraging our brethren when their cross-bearing pushes their endurance to the edge. Here are two letters by a devoted husband who shows himself to be a theologian of the cross, looking ever to the grace of God in Christ Jesus that shines so clearly when all agencies of the flesh have failed.

Dear Brothers,

By grace, God called a Greek professor, The Rev. Dr. Harold Buls, out of retirement to plant in my ears these two words, “By grace,” whenever I asked him: “How are you doing?”

By grace, God has and continues to give so many wonderful blessings into our lives. Later you may hear more of Mary’s story. For now, here is a piece of ours.

By grace, God placed me into a home of loving parents who brought me to the baptismal waters in my early days to be washed clean of my sin.

By grace, God moved those parents to bring us seven siblings to the Lord’s house nearly every Sunday, even after many long Saturday night dances.

By grace, God placed a Pastor into my life in those early years who instilled in me a burning desire to follow in his steps.

By grace, God used another Pastor who, though himself leaning in favor of Seminex theology, required memorization and thorough instruction in Luther’s Small Catechism.

By grace, God brought a beautiful young German lady named Mary Wolkenhauer into my life at a church basketball game in 1964.

By grace, God gave her hand to me in marriage in January, 1966, blessed us with two wonderful children, and, thus far, 42 + years of holy matrimony.

By grace, God brought my “wandering years” to an end by a six-year old daughter’s simple Sunday afternoon question: “Daddy, why don’t you go to church with us?”

By grace, God called me back to the Shepherd of my soul, a journey which ultimately led to the seminary many long years after the dream had died.

By grace, God called me to serve as Pastor of a gracious people in Albany who love receiving the Lord’s gifts, and whose compassion and caring ways still astound me at times.

By grace, God provided many gifted and caring physicians, nurses, and aides to us since cancer was permitted to enter our lives in July 2003.

By grace, God saw fit to give us five plus years of fighting this evil and ugly disease together.

By grace, God sustained us as He exercised His permissive will in allowing the cancer to reach the brain.

By grace, God has provided us with the caring people of Hospice to ease the suffering of my beloved bride for however many days His grace sustains her.

By grace, God has provided the likes of you, dear brothers, and I ask that you now pray for us as I pray for you and the work you do.

By grace, God sent His only Son, the Great Physician, to suffer and die for you and me, and my beloved bride, that we too might learn to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

By grace … what a beautiful way to see clearly in such dark and dreary days.

On 24 August 2008, Pastor Ley continued his consideration of God’s grace in Christ as he wrote us:

By grace, God has accomplished His good and perfect will with my beloved bride as He wrapped her in His loving arms and took her unto Himself at 10:30PM on the 23rd day of August in the year of our Lord 2008.

By grace, she knew no pain and her mental faculties were sharp to the end, though her speech had been gradually taken from her over the past few days.

By grace, God brought our entire family to be present at the time of her very peaceful passing even though she labored in her breathing toward the end.

By grace, we have been blessed beyond measure in watching one live with a deep down joy that would not be quenched, and then die with the dignity and poise befitting one who took great stock in her confirmation verse: “Lo I am with you alway, even to the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

1. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.

2. Death’s mightiest powers have done their worst,
And Jesus hath His foes dispersed;
Let shouts of praise and joy outburst.

3. On the third morn He rose again
Glorious in majesty to reign;
Oh, let us swell the joyful strain!

4. He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell.
Let songs of praise His triumph tell.

5. Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee.
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free
That we may live and sing to Thee.
Alleluia! [TLH #210].

Pax +

“God’s true nature is to love people who are troubled,
have mercy on those who are broken-hearted,
forgive those who have fallen, and
refreshes those who are exhausted.” [Luther, AE 12, pg 405]

As I ready this post for publication, Bruce and his family are preparing to commit their beloved Mary’s body to the earth, trusting in the Word of Him in whom she trusted, that He will indeed raise her again at the Last Day, and that He will remain with His Church on earth until then, comforting His brethren with the Word of Grace, feeding them with His own Body and Blood, keeping them until they receive the full revelation of His triumph. Please join us in prayer for this grieving family, even as we give thanks with them that Mary left this life confessing the true faith, assured that, as Luther says, God shall refresh those who are exhausted.

Rev. Eric Stefanski
Dean of Communications