My colleague and friend, Robert E. Webber died yesterday evening after a long, courageous and faithful struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Bob was past seventy, maybe seventy two, but he had the vigor of someone twenty-thirty years younger. Back in the nineties when I started writing in obscure journals and talking about issues post modern, post liberal, post Christendom, he was already on to it all. He encouraged me, supported me, pushed me on. Bob Webber blew my mind in the way he would humbly help and shepherd scholars, pastors coming up. I owe Bob Webber. He looked at my earliest writings and told me they were great. He gave me helpful suggestions on the Great Giveaway that really worked. And although we came from different generations, I was always amazed at how quickly he moved to understand the latest theologians.
These past months as Bob’s struggle worsened, he always struggled with hope, grace, perseverance eeking out the very most out of his every breath, reading, writing, meeting with people telling them how much he loved them, and was blessed by them (I know of these encounters thru stories told to me). He died so well in the knowledge and hope of the resurrected Lord.
I have learned that in times of death, that there are two extreme ways to die in our society. One extreme way is to die technologized, put out of our misery, where we expire in the company of machines. The other extreme is to put suffering and death into the context of the whole story of our lives and what God has done in and through us, so that the meaning of suffering and death takes on a quality of holy struggle in witness to the ultimate victory of Christ over sin and death. Here, all the time is redeemed. Here, love, reconciliation, and appreciation are shared in a community. Suffering is borne with grace as somehow these sufferings take on the very task of entering Christ’s sufferings for our salvation. Tragically many in our world die close to the first extreme. Rarely do we see alot of saints die in the second extreme. Bob Webber, and Joanne his wife and partner, showed us how to walk faithfully in this second way. For this I thank God.
“Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world; in the name of God the Father Almighty who created you; in the name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you; in the name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God. Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Bob. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.”
We’ll miss you Bob… until we meet again in Christ’s glory.
Pray for Joanne and the family. And I’ll reserve the comments here for any other prayers, tributes to Bob.