If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14.8)
The Trinity community was saddened to learn of the death Saturday of Trinity’s first president, the Rev. Dr. Fred W. Meuser. Dr. Meuser presided over the merger that formed Trinity Lutheran Seminary from its two predecessors, the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus and Hamma School of Theology in Springfield, Ohio. A well-respected American church historian, Meuser also served as Vice President of the American Lutheran Church for six years. The stories I am hearing of his formative influence on generations of church leaders are too many to number.
Today the seminary is living into another merger. I was honored that Fred participated in my installation in April as Dean of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University. This is the charge he spoke to me in that service:
You have been called to lead this seminary in the service of God’s mission.
A reading from Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Having faithfully run the race that was set before him, Fred has now taken a heavenly seat among that great cloud of witnesses. His witness to us continues still. I share part of a news release reporting on his address to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 1997. His words are as apt today as they were over twenty years ago.
"It's easy to forget what God promises to build: Not sanctuaries, not the American way of life, not American Christianity," Meuser said. "What God does promise is a saved people, a fellowship – no solitary Christians – a family of disciples for whom Jesus is the center of life – a worldwide family of forgiven and forgiving sinners, bound together by the Word and water of baptism, by the Spirit, by the Body and Blood of the Supper, who cheer each other on, suffer together, worship together, care for the world together."
"The saddest sight in the church is people who think God cannot or will not build that flock," Meuser said. "Alive, strong churches are those whose people count on the promise that 'I will build my church,' and give God their lives to use them in the process. That church, God's Church, is not a little fearful remnant hiding from the big bad world, always bemoaning how bad things are, hanging on by their fingernails. Oh, no! That Church is a great company, from every land from times past and present and yet to come, with the mind of Christ in them and a Lord out in front of them who says, 'Follow me! I have overcome the world! I will build my church!"
Amen. Rest in peace, dear brother in Christ.
The Rev. Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Ph.D.