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FAMILY FAITH

Faith in God has been a firm family tradition among the Vogets. Many Lutheran pastors and missionaries are found among the Voget ancestors.

Homily from the 2009 Voget Reunion

The service was held at 11:30 am, August 9 at Zion Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon. More than 50 attended the service, which was led by Pastor Hans Spalteholz, husband of Christa, daughter of Talleta Voget.

Introduction

Es freut mich sehr, Euch alle zu dieser Schlussfeier herzlichst willkommen zu heissen. And on behalf of Zion Lutheran, welcome! We'll follow the order of service in the bulletin. Hymn numbers refer to the LSB; German verses are printed in the bulletin. We'll sing in both languages simultaneously: your choice!

The offering will be divided between Mercy Corps and Bread for the World (BfW). Mercy Corps is a highly-held international aid [Non-Governmental Organization] NGO, the only such NGO not located in Washington, DC and is headquartered in Portland.

BfW is a unique non-denominational lobby in DC, engaged now for 35 years in very successful grass-rooted advocacy in Congress for food and health needs, and especially in third-world countries. If you write checks, please make them out to Zion Lutheran church, ear-marked to either organization. Our ushers will tally the total, divide evenly, and Zion will send the checks.

Now once more, I am delighted to welcome you to our Voget Reunion closing celebration. Under God's living Word and with song and prayer, we will gather our individual stories together into God's Big Story, the Story of his unconditional love in Jesus Christ for us and all the world, his great rescue and on-going work (through our hands). So, we begin our Reunion Worship Service in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and with the much loved and comprehensive hymn, Nun danket alle, Gott.

Message

Dear Family and Friends in Christ the Lord!

"This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it." And what a joy to celebrate in Portland again after the first reunion here in 1978.

Past, present and future all come together. We've gathered from the four corners of the earth to share personal and family heritage stories of the past. Here and now you've toured our scenic North West and City of Roses, walked and picknicked in Hubbard. We've enjoyed photos and fellowship, feasting and fun, but soon we'll be scattering into all four directions to our several personal futures.

Yet, we're not simply returning home, but as we here remember and celebrate how our personal stories are part of a much greater narrative, God's big Story, we are being sent forth under his blessing, to share in his work. and for that, so our central thought: we have more than enough to share.

God's word for today beautifully helps us focus on the spiritual heart and center of our family history and heritage and on three vital signs (or fruit) of its faith and life. (The readings, by the way, are from a three-year series shared by Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran and other churches. They let us experience and feed on the Great Story and its message.) But change happens. Look at heritage photos of our Voget matriarchs and their huge Victorian bonnets and the stern suits, ties and top hats of the patriarchs—what a striking change are our styles today! And read their touching letters and their authentic, deep piety, prayer life, with pervasive Scripture references, sharing their faith and life (in its joys and pain), in their love and concern for their children—what a change from our e-mail and call-phoning!

The point: change happens in the forms of that faith and life, but how important to focus on the essentials. That's the gift and challenge, die Gabe und Afgabe, of our three texts.

I. The heart and center of that heritage and its values (that we've been recalling and cherishing these days: love and concern, hospitality and "staying together") was vital trust in God, a tanacious faith and life in relationship with His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether in the form of a "conversion experience" (as for many) or in a life-long, family- and church in re-birth and growth as a child of God, it is: coming to know, and to be known by the Lord, to be loved and to love him. It is hearing, pondering, ingesting Jesus' own word to us today: I am the bread of life, the living bread, that came down from [God], that [Jesus] gives for the life of the world, with his own life, servant ministry and discipling, his death and resurrection. That wonderful Good News is non-negotiable, whatever form!

II. Its many signs and fruit are clearly detailed in Paul's letter; let's focus on three: love, forgiveness, and God's mission: being his hands in his work in the world (giving to the needy is one important specific). Love: not romantic (eros) love, not friendship (philia) love, but freely self-giving (agapé) love. It's not easy (is patient, kind, always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres; is not rude or proud, not easily angered, doesn't keep score or pay back, and on). That's hard work, in fact, it's impossible. And that is why Paul concludes so positively: "live in love, as Christ has loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." For that work, for that hunger, Paul points us to Christ, the Bread of Life.

The same holds true for forgiveness: that's not easy, particularly when we've been hurt or have hurt others (and ourselves), it's difficult, it's impossible. that's why Paul also says: "and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." To fulfill that hunger, hear Jesus: "I am the bread of Life."

To get a glimpse of how our Harzhof Vogets, Johanna and Gustav, role-modeled that faith and life (walked their talk!) in their daily life in prayer and scripture, we conclude this reunion message with revealing passages from their correspondence that Christa has excerpted from three letters

Letter from the Voget patriarch Gustav to his son Karl, grandfather of Karl Eckhard

On the day of your confirmation I wish you God's richest blessing, the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, that you may know and experience how rich in love and mercy the triune God is toward us sinners. Mama and I gladly forgive you everything you've done that has saddened us and harmed yourself. But don't forget, my dear Karl, that the greatest guilt can only be removed by sorrow and sincere repentance before God through faith in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Against you and you only have I sinned and done evil in your sight—that should be your plea to God. Now my Karl, you know the way: God grant you strength and courage to walk the same! Your loving father, Gustav Voget.

Letter to Karl from his mother Johanna when he is away from home somewhere

"Some things to think about every day"

1. Make yourself a firm daily schedule and keep it more sacred than any other occasional expectation from people known and unknown. And don't ever neglect it!

2. Let your best friend and most faithful companion be God who never dies and is always available.

3. There is an eye watching you everywhere, sees what is right, sees the real you!

Sanctify your rising each morning before this sacred eye [of God].
And bless your lying down each evneing before this merciful eye.

4. Seek God daily in his Word, with prayer—and ponder often his words and works, and intentionally keep before you his great love, that he gave his only son for us and also has given up his life for you and wants to be the shepherd of your soul.

5. Call upon your Savior Jesus again and again, who loves you and has made you his child. I plead with you, my dear, dear Karl, to read what I've written here every Sunday. And let us daily come together before the throne of God.

One more thing is needful, only one. God bless and keep you and help you to attain this one thing. Your mother prays for this every day. He is the way and the truth and the life. For that use the Holy Scriptures. — she then adds several scriptural admonitions and words of encouragement.

Letter to Karl from a friend of Johanna about the birth of his newest sister, Talleta, youngest of the 14 Vogets and Christa's mother

That you may number one more dear little sister delights my heart. Believe me when I say that I wish all Germany would be populated with Vogets. It is the best human race I know.

Conclusion

May we gain the wisdom to distinguish the cultural and time-bound from the essential and changeless. And may we all be inspired and empowered to retrieve and renew such a faith, to own and practice it, to share it in our own families, to pass it on—as it was passed on to us—to the next generation, wisely, humbly and confidently, when God opens the door. With Jesus as the bread of life for us and for all, there's more than enough of love, of forgiveness, of God's Work to share! Let all God's people say Amen, Amen!

So God be with you, till we meet again! Amen and amen!

Hans with Christa Spalteholz

Prayers from the 2009 Voget Reunion

Heavenly Father, with all your people from every nation and tongue on earth, and with all who have gone before us in faith, we bless you, we praise you, we worship you, we lift your name on high and we bow before you in reverant awe.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Thank you for your faithfulness, kindness and mercy.

For bringing us together as an extended family for this weekend to renew our friendships and share your goodness.

For all who were responsible for planning this event; for the many hours of preparation and the loving way that this event has come together.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We are especially grateful for the spiritual heritage of Christian faith modeled for us by our Voget ancestors. This heritage has been passed on to us. It is a remarkable story and we thank you for its ongoing unfolding.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We praise and thank you for the Big Story of your unconditional love in Christ, which is the heart and foundation of our heritage. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to reconcile us with God.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

So fed by your living Word, Jesus the Bread of Life, let each of us, by your amazing grace, be restored and renewed in that faith. May we own it, daily be deepened in it, and joyfully, with humility, pass it on to the next generation.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Comfort, heal and sustain the sick; rescue the confused, the erring and straying, the blind and lost. Grant us patience in our afflictions and trust in your faithful goodness.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Before I give it back to Hans I would like to ask all the young people 30-years-old and younger to stand. And all the rest of us to reach out our hands towards the young people as we pray a special blessing on them.

Heavenly father, thank you for your young people. We pray that you will bless them. May the come to know you in a personal way. Those who are in school, help them with their studies. Those who are starting families, give them wisdom in raising children. And all this we ask for the sake of your glory. Amen.

Then we prayed for each family member who died since the last reunion, listing each one as they came to mind.  (Prayers prayed by Julie Atkins)

 

Copyright 2009-2015 Julie Atkins