Mark Kreklau, 70, of Drayton, North Dakota passed away on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. You can read the official obit in many places.  The funeral will be held at Immanuel in Grand Forks on Monday the 18th at 11 am.  Prayer services will be held at 6 pm  Sunday the 17th after the visitation from 4 until 6 at Trinity in Drayton.

What the official obituary might not tell you was the unique character that the Church Militant has lost.  When we transfer the saints to the Church Triumphant it is a victory signaling Christ’s victory over  sin, death and the devil.  It is a sign of the final victory when the last enemy will be conguered and there will be life everlasting.  So we celebrate a victory but we have lost something that can’t easily be replaced.  Mark is one of the many losses that cannot be replaced.

I never told him this, but if you have read this blog you are familiar with the “Curmudgeon”.  Mark and I had a talk one time when he was in the hospital and we agreed that we were getting to be “cranky old men”.  Curmudgeon blogs (9/07/11; 9/08/11; 3/14/12; and 3/18/12) were inspired by that conversation.  Mark reminded me of some of the Biblical characters that we study in that he walked that ground of absolute frustration and anger over the stupidity, arrogance and ingratitude that he saw around himself and the exaperation of knowing that because of Jesus we should all be better than we are.  At the same time one of the great ruffles of his life was knowing that he was the same.  He understood Luther’s admonition that “Christ dwells only in sinners”, but was upset by the fact that we are still so good at it.

 How do we imagine the life of faith? What does living faith look like? Does it look like the “good Christian,” “whole person,” “victorious life” version of the Christian life?  Those were some questions he and I discussed.  We talked about Romans 7-8.  The Christian life looks like a war. There is a lot of exasperation and falling in it.  As one blogger has written

 It is a battle where we are brought down again, and again and again. Brought down by what we are, and what we continually discover ourselves to be. And we only are “victorious” in the victory of Jesus, a victory that is ours by faith, not by sight. In fact, that fight is probably described just as accurately by the closing words of Romans 7 as by the “victorious” words of Romans 8.

Romans 7:23-25 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

I fall down. I get up….and believe. Over and over again. That’s as good as it gets in this world.  (Micheal Spencer)

Mark could have written that.  I am sure he thought it.  I know he experienced it.  Like the homes he was always deconstructing and reconstructing our life of faith is never a “finished product” in this world. I fight. Jesus will finish the work. I will groan, and do battle since Christ is in me. The Gospel assures victory.  Now I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

This ‘discontent’ with what we are, but joy in what Jesus is and what Jesus did is faith.  Mark was given that gift of faith.  It also gave Mark the gift of what I can only call encouragement.  He had the ability to admonish you in words that left no doubt that right then at that moment he considered you to be an idiot, and in the same space of time understand that he recognized you as a ‘fellow traveler’ and an object of infinite value.  That is a talent that few possess.  If you can do that to a fellow sinner without coming across as ‘holier than thou’ and effectively point out the issue, that is a gift.  Mark had it.

Now lest this sound like it was all theological reflection and philosophical introspection it was assuredly not.  Mark could talk about everything from politics to baseball to basketball to hockey and football.  He loved to fish and be with his family.  He was very interested in people and loved going to conventions of all things.  I told him that was a sign of insanity.  He pretended not to like his dogs but I never believed it.  He was extremely proud of his wife, Kaye and her serving as National LWML President was a source of real joy.  He loved a cold beer and old Scotch – good First Article gifts.  A phrase that I heard him say countless times about countless things was – “isn’t that beautiful?”

I will miss the discussions about faith and foibles, stupidity and nobility and the human spirit.  Mostly I think I will miss the words spoken to me after Mark served me the body and blood of Christ – “Jesus loves you my friend!”  I knew that and I know that, but in the battlefield we call this life it is nice to have a fellow battler remind you.