In Memoriam Paul J. Sauerteig
April 21, 2011 A+D
Rev. David H. Petersen
Here are some things I was asked by Mr. Sauerteig to note in particular about his father.
Paul Sr. served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Lutheran Hospital for something close to 25 years. He oversaw the purchase of the real estate where the hospital now stands and its sale to the Lutheran Health Network. He was a reserved man, not very expressive, but was proud of his grandchildren, all of whom, except those still in school, have post graduate degrees, and one of whom, his namesake, is currently enrolled at Columbia, from whence Paul Sr. earned both a Bachelor’s degree and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He worked 28 years, after retiring from Lincoln, at his son’s law firm where he was especially loved and had a particular bond with Paul Jr.’s partner, Norman.
No doubt, you all have your own stories and memories. Like all of us, Paul was a complicated man with a complicated history and loved each of you distinctly, according to your own gifts and history. But of all the things that made him who he was, all the things he did and accomplished, and friendships he had in that long life, I’d like you to spend a little time today considering what a unique and surpassingly excellent education he obtained here in Ft. Wayne before heading off to Columbia. Only a few Jesuit schools in the world can currently boast a more rigorous and deep education than that of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s seminaries. They simply are the best in the world. For all our faults, we’re good at school. But our seminaries now spend the first two years, post college, trying to teach our students what Paul learned in those 6 years of High School. The Lutheran Church in America has never had pastors so-well educated or prepared for the seminary as Paul and his peers were.
He, of course, didn’t go to seminary. But he put that education to good use. His entire life was engaged in various acts of mercy and support for the Church. But he was also one of the most insightful laymen I’ve ever known, and I expect this was due in large part to the Bunk. What he learned there on Maumee was the foundation for a lifetime of faith and service. It is that education, probably more than anything else, which gave him the ability to take advantage of later opportunities. In any case, he was a deeply pious man, a lover of sacred music, the Bible, and liturgy.
He didn’t just like old stuff for the sake of nostalgia. He liked things that had stood the test of time and was particularly attached to ancient expressions of the Faith – like the Collect for Peace. He saw no disconnect between intellect, beauty, and faith. He liked the King James translation for both its beauty and tradition as well as its accuracy.
Shortly after Freddie died, Paul and I discussed the Resurrection. He did not ask me what the fathers taught about the Resurrection or what I thought. He told me what the Bible says. He’d had a particularly poignant moment with Freddie where he had tried to comfort her with the account of the resurrection of Lazarus and she had ended up comforting him. She had taken his breath away by her compassion when He read the passage, “Jesus wept,” as she spoke of how touched she was that Our Lord, God of God and Light of Light, Creator and Ruler of the Universe, had been moved to tears at the death of His friend, and how honored we are to have a God like that, a God who cares for us. Then Paul cried a little and she had wiped away the tear from his cheek and Paul, in a sight that must have amused the holy angels, was at a loss for words.
That unexpected and joyful moment meant that Paul never got to give Freddie the speech that he had planned. He didn’t need to. She understood: Jesus lives. But Paul needed to give the speech. His loss for words was temporary. So he gave me the speech. The Resurrection of Lazarus, he said, shows the two natures of Christ. His human nature is shown in His weeping, and His Divine nature in the miracle that calls Lazarus forth from the dead.
It was necessary for Christ to be both human and divine. Only the Living God can overcome death and restore creation. But only a Man can keep the Law and then fulfill it as the worthy sacrifice. He becomes Man precisely that He might suffer and die. As a Man, He endured all that we endure and worse, including the loss of loved ones. In His weeping we learn to mourn with hope and without shame. Mourning is how we love those who have gone before us. If we did not love, we would not mourn. Our Lord weeps. He does not wail. He is sad and He misses His friend. But He does not despair. He has hope. He believes and trusts in His Father’s goodness and promise.
The miracle of Lazarus will be repeated. The Lord Jesus Christ has laid down His life and taken it up again. When He died upon the cross, He endured the separation of His body and soul. His soul went to His Father. His body was committed to the earth to wait until the Resurrection. On the third day, He came together again and lived, as a Man. He is still a Man, still one of us, joined to our Flesh. He has paid for our passage. He has ascended to pave our way into heaven. His resurrection inaugurates our own coming resurrections on the last day as foreseen in Lazarus.
This is the beating heart of Christianity: Jesus live. So shall we. This was a beacon for Paul, something he was eager for, that for which He waited and hoped, and also a constant source of comfort and joy. I pray that it is the same for all of us.