My friend, Roger Miller, was buried today. After a lengthy fight with cancer Roger finally succumbed to this disease, but he did so with the words of St. Paul in his heart, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Roger loved to fish. He always seemed to have a pole in his hand. Living on Big Turkey Lake, all Roger had to do was step out his backdoor and his boat awaited him.
One of my fondest fishing memories involving Roger occurred when Roger, Tom, and I were fishing Truman’s Reservoir in Missouri. We had been fishing all day without a bite. Late in the afternoon storm clouds rolled in and the fish began to bite. The rainstorm approached rapidly. There were cracks of lightning and thunder rumbled. Common sense screamed, “Stop fishing and head for a safe place!” but common sense and fishermen determined to catch fish don’t always go together! Finally, after one lightning bolt was a little too close for comfort, we pulled anchor and began to head back to where we had launched Roger’s boat. The problem: we were miles away from the launch site and we were on a lake that none of us had ever fished. Roger ran the boat at full throttle and directed the Bass Tracker in the direction we thought we should go. Tom, an experienced navigator, was trying to make sense of the map we had of the lake and directed Roger accordingly. Suddenly, the boat sputtered and stopped. The gas tank was empty! Fortunately, Roger had a spare full tank of gas, but the gas line was flooded as he attempted to restart the motor. As the wind and waves pounded the boat … as the lightning and thunder came closer … Roger looked at Tom and me and he said, “Let’s all do what we are good at! I will get this boat going! Tom, you figure out how we navigate our way back to home; and Glenn: well … you PRAY! That’s what you’re good at!!”
Actually, truth be told, my prayer life doesn’t compare to Roger’s. Throughout the challenges Roger endured in his life, he would remind everyone who would listen, “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
Roger loved to “fish.” You see, Roger took to heart the words of Jesus, “I will make you a fisher-of-men.” As much as Roger loved to fish for walleye and bass, he delighted even more in “fishing for people” and teaching other people how to “fish”! I know. Roger taught me to love “fish” and how to “fish.”
I first got to know Roger when I was a first year student at the seminary. I thought I knew it all. I had spent the previous four years at Concordia, Ann Arbor preparing myself for seminary. I could translate the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew. Before enrolling at the seminary I had read Walther’s Law and Gospel and the Book of Concord at least two times. While at Concordia Theological Seminary I was privileged to study under some of the most knowledgeable Luther scholars, but it was Roger (a man with no degrees after his name) who taught me to love “fish” and “how to fish.”
It is said that, “There are two types of fishermen – those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish.” Truthfully, until I met Roger, I think I was a “fisherman” who “fished” for sport. Roger … well … Roger “fished for fish.” Roger loved people and his passion was that every single person he came into cantact with would know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Roger didn’t care if the person was rich or poor, a plumber or a physician, Roger “cast the nets of the Gospel” and people were drawn to Christ. Roger spoke of his Lord whether at work or in the hospital or in his fishing boat (on the boat he had a captive audience!). Roger didn’t use fancy theological jargon when talking about Jesus. Roger simply spoke of Jesus — his life, his death, his resurrection and the forgiveness and hope we have in Him. Roger lived what Martin Luther instructed of all Christians: “Each one, according to his calling and position, obtains the right and the power of teaching and confessing before others this Word, which we have obtained from Him. Even though not everybody has the public office and calling, every Christian has the right and the duty to teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and rebuke his neighbor with the Word of God at every opportunity and whenever necessary.” (LW 13:333)
Roger was a man who loved to “fish”! Thank you, Roger, for teaching me how to “fish”!
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.'” (Revelation 14:13)