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 taken..at 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.