Sunday, March 30, 2008

My younger brother in the Faith, Andrew

Above are two pictures of my dear friend and younger brother in the Faith Andrew who went home to be with Christ suddenly and unexpectedly last week. The top one is a recent picture of him. The bottom one was taken back when he was a sophomore in High School and was helping with our VBS program. It was 10 years ago. Back then Redeemer was pretty small and Andrew was basically the main guy in our youth group, I was the youth pastor. He was joy to have around, the little kids especially loved him because he was never too cool to hang with them. He's the guy on my shoulders messing around as usual. I can't remember for sure, but I'm betting I dumped him on his rearend right after the picture was least I should have! He was a goof and a blast.

I sincerely thank you who have been praying for Andrew's family, his fiance, friends, and me. Friday night was the visitation at the church followed by a funeral service Saturday morning. I cannot explain the tangible sense of God's Holy Spirit calming me when it was time to preach (his parents explicitly asked me to preach a sermon, not just a ten-minute "funeral meditation") as I have been feeling a total lack of control over my emotions since Tuesday. We committed Andrew's earthly body to the ground Saturday afternoon. For the first time in ten years the original members of Redeemer's youth group gathered together, I just wish it could have been for a different occasion.

Andrew's parents are strong in the Lord, as is his extended family. His mother, while she doesn't probably know it, has been a musical mentor of my wife since we arrived at Redeemer. Shari respects her deeply. Andrew's uncle is one of elders of Redeemer and I consider him to be one of my best friends. The family is strong, but understandably burdened by questions that will not likely ever have an earthly answer. Pastorally, I am so very proud of them right now. They are normally very private people, but they have allowed their family and church family open access to them, so they are not mourning alone. They are also not mourning as those without hope. Their confidence is firm upon the the Rock who is Christ and the promises of His Word. Spending time with this dear family has given me renewed confidence in the gospel I have been called to preach. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the real deal, it's not some fluff, Pollyanna, mush. It's about real living and real dying. It's the only thing that gives real purpose and comfort. Period.

To be honest, I am pretty worn down emotionally and physically right now. It has been the hardest week of my life, bar none. This is a kid (I know he was a man when he died, he was 25, but I was his youth pastor) we spent hours with. I'm not depressed, so don't anybody worry about me, I'm just still grieving and feel like I'm on "E". I'm not going to blog about this much for a while. There is still so much to process and despite my normal propensity towards a load of words, I'm not quite able to verbalize what I'm thinking and feeling yet. I do know God's grace is absolutely sufficient, my love for Christ has grown through this. He is everything He has said He is.

Please don't stop praying for Andrew's family, fiance, friends, church family, and me. I suppose eventually I'll be able to write more on this.


Rick Calohan said...

May God’s Grace and Peace be with you Tony, and all who mourn the loss of Andrew Thomas Smith, I am relatively new to the Redeemer family of faith; However, I was compelled to be a witness to the resurrection of Andrew. I have attended many a funeral in my lifetime, but none so moving, so powerful, and so reassuring.

I did not know Andrew personally but the words spoken by Dr. Rev. Michael A. Milton, the Affirmation of Faith by Nathan and your sermon brought Andrew closer to me. The words, the scriptures, the music, I am sure comfort Andrew’s family and friends who have placed their faith and trust in Christ that someday we shall be reunited with him.

Your pastoral prayer this Sunday morning reassured this family of faith of God’s Grace and Love for His people in time of trouble in time of need. Nathan’s sermon on Psalms 28, and Brian leading us in the Responsive Reading of Psalm 27 and Communion reassured we are a Covenant People a Family of Faith and Trust in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Phantom495 said...

Tony, know that Carmen and I love you and are praying for you throughout each day. I want to share with you a verse (one of many) that comforted me when my Mom died: "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Ps. 116:15.

I recently received Boice's commentary on the Psalms from my wife and, on this verse, he comments: "God is particularly close to his people when they stand at death's door. god watches over his people when they are sick or dying, coming close to them and making his presence known so that they have comfort in death's hour...One thing is certain: The people of god are immortal until their work on earth is done."

Although many questions have no earthly answers, we are encouraged that Andrew's family, you, and those brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives Andrew touched rest in the assurance that Christ is Sovereign!

Frontier Forest said...

Pastor Tony, I have a customer who attended the Saturday funeral. He shared with me that what you said was very moving to him. I have been praying for this man for 15 years. Knowing there were many more folks there who probably have never committed their lives to Christ, we all can rest in the Words, “No word, spoken in MY name will ever return empty. They will accomplish that which I intended and they will reach those whom they were intended.” Unfortunately, because of my business commitment at the “Spring, Home and Garden Show,” I was unable to attend, but certainly was in much prayer.

Anonymous said...

From C. H. Spurgeon to his son regarding the death of his child:
"The Lord Himself comfort you. I want comforting myself. To think of that dear creature being taken away! It must be right! It must be good! Our Father is never mistaken nor unkind. . . . I feel sure you will both find a secret strength poured into your souls, and in this also faith shall have the victory. I shall never forget the day. . . . To you it must be a sharp cut; but our Lord has an almighty salve."

Grace and peace to you - d.keech

malcolm said...

For those of you who read this blog but don't attend Redeemer I want to know what a blessing it is to be a part of this congregation. To me this "event" shows what a strong and united congregation looks like. And, when I refer to the congregation, I mean the Teaching and Ruling Elders, the Deacons, and the Congregants. While we all deeply mourn Andrew, I couldn't help but be accutely aware of the blessing of being a member of Redeemer.

Danielle said...

Dear Pastor Tony,
You have been in our prayers this week, as well as your church family at Redeemer and the family of Andrew. Andrew was very blessed to have you in his life. And the Redeemer family is also very blessed to have you as Pastor, mentor and friend. we mourn with you all, and will continue to pray for you. I thought of this song when you posted of Andrew's death..
with Love,
Danielle,Jeff and the boys in NJ

CAW said...

Tony, Jeanne & family,
On this, Andrew's birthdate, 12/15, we remember him and pray for those whose lives he touched. I miss and loved him.