Klemet Preus always had a glint in his eye and a quip on his lips. He was my friend and I told him that I enjoyed his company because “hilarity would ensue” when we got together. He lived in the joy of his daily baptismal remembrance and the rhythm of confession and absolution. He found joy in heralding Christ crucified for sinners and the declaration that sins are forgiven and we are free. He enjoyed the great gifts that God could give in creation and in the things of this life. Even Hollywood movies could be for him a means of getting to Divine truth. That does not mean that he watered down the Gospel, but that he was aware of “all creation groaning in subjection, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed”. (Romans 8)
Klem seldom met a theological proposition that he would not debate and did not enjoy and the result was often risible and always revelatory. Was I a consecrationist or a receptionist? Taking either position meant a debate. In the amphictyony, were the judges types of Christ or just chosen instruments of salvation for portions of the people of Israel and does it make a difference? I still wonder about that one. Is there such a thing as personal “holiness”? That discussion was revelatory because it showed both of our hearts. When asked to lecture on personal holiness Klem said “I felt imminently qualified since no one has ever accused me of actually possessing a particularly high degree of holiness – personal or impersonal. And it strikes me that holiness is something that is better had than analyzed.” You can find this lecture at www.gloryofchrist.org. I like to think his lecture had a beginning in our conversation as we shot pool in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (he was a shark, adept at pool, bowling, softball and a lot of other stuff). We came to a conclusion that is spelled out in Klem’s lecture – “holiness is complete in Christ. It is imputed to us by the gospel and received passively by faith. Because of Christ’s holiness God regards us as holy. It is the Spirit’s “has made Holy” in Christ. This holiness is never personal in the sense that it can somehow differ from person to person. At the same time holiness is the work of the Spirit in the Christian as seen by the Christian himself and by others. This holiness is partial. The Holy Spirit “still makes holy.” It is always in process of growing and exercising itself in the word. It daily crucifies the flesh, loves its neighbor and lives in meekness before God. It receives forgiveness daily because it needs forgiveness daily. Yet there is only one holiness of the Christian. For all this we never boast, compare ourselves to others or even to ourselves. Rather we thank our Lord Jesus who gives us our holiness and we praise the Spirit of Christ. After all, “God’s Spirit alone is called a Holy Spirit, that is, the one who has made us holy and still makes us holy.”
That is not only risible it is hilarious. The Divine hilarity that rejoices in me a poor miserable sinner because of Jesus. It is the hilarity of Zephaniah 3 where, after all the doom and gloom revolving around personal holiness God gives this hilarious pronouncement –
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
God was speaking Jesus. God was heralding Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and holiness. God in this passage is “Gospeling “us. We can rejoice in the One that rejoices over us because of the One in Whom He rejoiced totally and from eternity, His only begotten gift, our Savior.
Klem wrote much including two books, The Fire and the Staff” and “What They Need to Hear” both published by Concordia Publishing in St. Louis and both containing touches of the hilarity and realism of a life lived in spacious places of freedom in the Gospel that tells us of the doing and dying of Jesus “for us”.
I believe that hilarity and joy never died in Klemet. It may have been shaded for awhile but like the sun behind some clouds it would come out. One of the last things that Klemet said to family and friends was “Thank God for life”.
Klemet died on Wednesday July 19th in Minnesota. He lived free in Jesus, preached that freedom to others and died in that freedom to be transported to a “spacious place” (Psalm 18:19), where the God who rejoiced over him will be the object and source of his life and joy forever.
There will be visitation this Friday July 11th from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Glory of Christ Lutheran Church – 4040 Hwy 101 N Plymouth, MN 55446 The funeral is this Saturday, July 12th at 11:00 am with another visitation 1 hour before (10:00) also at Glory of Christ Lutheran Church. Burial will take place immediately following the funeral at St. John’s Lutheran Church – 9141 Cty Rd 101 N Corcoran, MN 55340 A lunch will be provided immediately following the burial, also at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Flowers may be sent directly to Glory of Christ Lutheran Church.