by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
Bob Beecher, pastor of Beatrice Mennonite Church, went home to be with the Lord, on Monday, April 7, 2014. He had experienced what initially appeared as a light stroke a week earlier as he and his wife, Cindy, sat down for supper. At the funeral service on Thursday, April 10, members of Beatrice Mennonite Church deeply grieved this sudden loss of a pastor who had loved them deeply. After five years of short-term pastorates, the church felt that they had struck gold and were now ready to name new goals after the first year. Members noted Pastor Bob’s reverent respect for and engagement with the Scriptures and his readiness to pray always. “He just talked to God before, during, and after conversations and meetings.”
Pastor Bob’s death seemed too soon and too sudden. Bob had a lifelong dream of pastoring a congregation and considered this the crowning capstone to a life of church-related ministry from camp director to denominational minister to church consultant/coach. He was dreaming of a ten-year chapter.
It seems too soon in that Bob was born in 1949 which happens to be my model year. So young! His death reminds me of own vulnerability and mortality.
So I began Holy Week at Beatrice Mennonite Church with the Palm Sunday declaration, “Hosanna! God saves!” When Jesus died, everything seemed lost for the disciples, but it wasn’t. When we experience the death of a loved one or a beloved leader, all seems lost for the moment, but it isn’t. Because God saves. God saves persons; God saves situations; God saves churches. There is even a good news rumor out there that God is going to save the world. “Hosanna! God saves!”
We were at Palm Sunday living in anticipation of both Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. I Corinthians 15 begins with the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Most of the chapter proclaims that this resurrection isn’t only for Jesus. It is for all who believe in Jesus. We too will be resurrected. And death, which now harasses us will ultimately be destroyed. Hosanna! “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…Death will be swallowed up in victory” (I Cor. 15:52, 54).
That chapter ends with a wonderful resurrection promise for the present for each of us. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58).
It is a promise for Pastor Bob, and it is a promise for you and me. Every gift shared, every ministry offered contributes to God’s global restoration project and will be vindicated in the final resurrection. The Message Bible says it this way, “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”