Pastor Bob Frederich, a dear friend and mentor to generations of pastors, including myself, died this morning at a hospital in Maine after an illness that began last August. Throughout his convalescence Bob’s family kept the hundreds of people who were connected to Bob through ministry, love, and prayer aware of how he was progressing through an online device called Care Pages.
Each morning and evening since August one of the family members has posted an update. This morning’s read, “At about 7:22 Dad died. They were not able to re-establish an airway. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith. He finished the course. Now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to to him on that day--and not only to him but to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim 4: 7-8).”
I bring this outline to you who read The Morning Watch not because you knew Bob or because he was an example to the nations (which he was) of what a godly life lived in the presence of Christ is, but because all four of the Psalms from the Lectionary this morning read like they were tailored specifically to Bob’s home-going.
We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.
(Psalm 75:1 ESV)
Pastor Bob was a man who gloried in recounting God’s wondrous deeds! The last time I was with him I sat next to him in a chair (he was in a wheelchair after having had his lunch). Across from us sat a pastor from the Portland, ME area whose name is Angel. We spent most of an hour recounting to one another the wondrous deeds of God. The fact that Bob was living encased in a wasted elderly body did nothing to diminish his excitement and enthusiasm for knowing Christ and making him known.
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.
(Psalm 76:1-3 ESV)
A major part of Bob’s testimony is the peace he experiences in God’s presence. Without Christ, Bob would have been a very different man, to be sure. But God taught this man the truth Paul knew, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content… in any an all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing hunger and plenty, abundance and want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23 ESV)
The 23rd Psalm is so often associated with death that even complete non-believers often have it read at their funerals and memorial services. But this piece of Hebrew poetry was a present reality for Bob, and he taught all who would listen to make it a reality in their lives also. Bob had an unshakable confidence that regardless of the shadow of death that seemed to hang over his physical life so often, his days would be spent eternally in the house of the Lord.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 27:1, 13-14 ESV)
How many times did Bob need to take courage? And every time, he took courage in the Lord. He knew that all other strengths would ultimately fail him. Only in God is our refuge!
The Germans have a word for a testimonial book, poem, or series of sermons or lectures that are published after a famous person has died. The subject of festschrift is not the life of the person being memorialized, but rather the subject is some aspect of their life’s work that those left behind want to raise up. Such a testimonial is called a Festschrift, literally a “festival writing.”
The subject of a Festschrift for Pastor Bob Frederich would have to be the Glory of God. In fact, I can’t think of a better text to put forward than this one by Fanny Crosby:
To God be the glory, great things He hath done, So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin, And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, To every believer the promise of God; The vilest offender who truely believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done, And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son; But purer, and higher, and greater will be Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice! Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.