For some of my readers, undoubtedly the first thing you might be thinking is, "Who is Klemet Preus?" That's understandable, even for life-long Lutherans. In the "Six Degrees of Separation of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod," undoubtedly most life-long Lutherans have heard the name of "Preus" at some point. J.A.O. Preus was President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, and Jacob's brother Robert was President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Robert was Klemet's father, and Jacob his uncle. The Preus family is rather large, and many in the family have chosen to serve the Church in an official capacity, so coming across the name should come as no surprise. Yet even though we are all connected, among the over-2 million LCMS Lutherans, of course we will find strangers. And as Klemet never sought glory for himself, his own name might not raise an immediate flag of recognition.
Pastor Preus was a bold preacher of the Gospel of the incarnate Christ. This was never more apparent than in the days when death drew near. The Reverend Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS, shared an account of a visit he made with Pastor Preus in hospice:
We spent the day with Rev. Klemet Preus and Janet at the hospice where Klemet is spending his last days on this earth. I have never been so encouraged and strengthened as I was spending that day with Klemet. He is singularly focused on Christ and the gift of eternal life. He is singularly focused on sharing Christ and his hope with others. He is physically incapacitated having suffered a debilitating stroke. His right shoulder is fractured due to the weakening caused by cancer. He can not move. Yet he is a source of constant joy, encouragement and love to all those around him. He knows hundreds of hymns by heart. Daily his brother in law visits him in the morning to sing matins. After Steve read the text for the day, he said, "Klemet, you've preached on this text many times haven't you?" "Yes I have," came the response. "What did you preach?" Then Klemet gave a five minute homily on the beautiful surety of Christ's word in the holy scriptures and the place where the word of forgiveness is delivered in Church on sunday. I was floored and humbled. Klemet woke at one point later in the day saying, "Jan! Thank God for LIFE! Thank God for life! Get the wine Jan. Everyone gets two glasses. Thank God for LIFE! We're paying for it Jan. Two glasses for everyone. The kids can have one glass. Thank God for life! Tell Christian and Cindy [brother and sister in law] let's get this party started. Thank God for Life!" Hundreds of bible passages from friends all over the country have been printed and taped to the walls of his hospice room. What a blessing.
As for me...well, as far as I know, I only stood within ten feet of the man once. Having been inspired to persevere while reading his book The Fire and the Staff when I was a pastor without a congregation, I tried to meet him at the Higher Things gathering in Illinois in July of 2011. "Tried" is the operative word, as everyone seemed to want to speak with him. I never got to speak with him. Yet I will never forget him. His words, his faithful confession, his joy in the Lord, will always be a part of my ministry and my life in Christ. I will forever thank God for Pastor Preus and his faithful words as I stood with my staff but had no sheep to tend.
Thanks be to God, for I know I meet Klemet now at the Communion rail, and I will meet him and rejoice forever at the eternal Wedding Feast.
"Lord, let at last Thine angels come..."