God is Making All Things New: Remembering Brandon

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Friday, in the midst of great sorrow and grief I had the honor to do the funeral for Brandon Austin. Brandon was 13 and recently died in a motor accident. This has been an unexpected week of unspeakable grief. Here’s what I shared with his family and close friends.

Please continue to keep this family in your prayers in the days to come.

In the hope of Jesus,

Pastor Stephen

God is Making All Things New: Remembering Brandon

Family and Friends let me first say what needs to be said. We don’t want to be here, we’re here because of our love for Brandon and for one another. “This sucks”, were the words of Brandon’s mother the other day as I sat with her and the family for three hours in the midst of their grief and sorrow. Not only is that true, but the reality is, death is tragic. It’s tragic no matter the age but especially for a 13 year old. My prayer and the prayer of the church that I help lead (that has been and continues to be praying for you) is that my presence and a few words from God’s word will bring you the hope that we all so desperately need even if we are understandably angry, numb, exhausted, and hopeless. It’s helpful if we grieve together as a community while realizing that many of us will grieve differently. We sometimes rush to quick answers or hopeful slogans but first we should acknowledge that we don’t want to be here and that death is tragic. Every fiber of our being and our collective voice together is screaming inside “we don’t want to be here.” Not only do we want Brandon back but we want all things to be made new in our lives, in our family relationships and in this world. This is God’s heartbeat in the face of Jesus.

Hear from God’s Word:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:4-6

Some of you might be wondering why a young man in a suit is standing here before you today. My name is Stephen Mook, I’m the pastor of Generation Church in South Kingstown. Yet I’m more than a Pastor, Minister, Reverend or whatever informal title that you want to give me. I’m a follower of Jesus, husband, father and a son who grew up in this town. Not only did I grow up locally but I got in a lot of trouble in this town as a teenager. And much like Brandon (as I’ve heard from family and friends) I barely graduated junior high and knew how to drive my parents and teachers crazy. And my family and friends didn’t give up on me as they certainly didn’t give up on Brandon either. So whatever stereotypes you have of a Pastor they should change after today. I’m no better then the next person, but I’m here because in my hopelessness as a young teenager God by his glorious grace and great love gave me hope in the face of Jesus.

I’m here today because of you and Brandon. More importantly, we’re here to remember his life together, grieve his death together, and look in hope to the God who is making all things new. This past Tuesday I sat with Brandon’s mom and brothers for hours and everyone had a different story to share and everyone was grieving in different ways. One minute there was long pauses of silence with tears full of unspeakable grief and the next moment was full of laughter as the brothers joked about Brandon stealing their socks and capturing a live rabbit in order to win a two hundred dollar bet. One minute Brandon’s mother spoke proudly about how Brandon would always go over to their elderly neighbor and shovel the snow for him and then laughed (now) about how he would never shovel their own driveway. I’ve heard stories of Brandon’s love for animals and how he would stop by the animal shelter and do anything he could to help heal and restore the animals that were the most in need. I’ve heard stories of Brandon’s love for summers in South Carolina with this grandparents. On the back porch in the face of death the full range of human emotion was on display; tears and laughter, stories of joyful remembrance and silent grief. I’ve heard about the good stories, bad stories and I look forward to hearing more in the days ahead. I want to encourage everyone in your own time and in your own way to continue to share stories as we all grieve in different ways at different times.

Now I have a story of Brandon. It was a few months ago that I was with a few friends from our local church and we were walking around our town passing out information about our Easter service at the South Kingstown High School. We were walking by the Wakefield elementary school when I saw a group of young teenagers playing at the park. I walked over to the park and had some small talk with a few of them as they were enjoying one another and school vacation. Before I left a few of the kids asked me about our church and our Easter service. I don’t know if they were surprised that someone so young could be a pastor but either way they asked…. so I answered. I told them that I was local kid who came back to South Kingstown because I believe Jesus is the greatest news in the world. Now one teenager all of sudden got really serious, starred right at me and asked, “why is Jesus the greatest news in the world.” Over the next few minutes I was able to share with him about Jesus. Now this young teenager wasn’t going to take any nonsense from any of us. The person that I’m talking about is Brandon. One of his friends last night confirmed with me that it was Brandon and his friends who I had spoken with that day at Wakefield school. I told Brandon and his friends the bad news first, about how all of us have worshiped things and people more than God. We have all worshiped ourselves and dishonored our God and Father because we didn’t enjoy and love Him. The world is messed up and there is death because of us. Because we have tried to do things our way and our way always leads to death, destruction and endless brokenness. I shared with Brandon and these kids that death is not how it’s supposed to be but death is the result of our sin. We need a Savior and God himself to bring us back into a relationship with our good Father and into His family. Throughout the conversation I was reminded of how much young people carry and how aware they are of the brokenness in the world and in their own lives. I was reminded that the world and this generation is groaning for redemption. Now these teenagers weren’t offended but acknowledged their own rebellion against God, the messiness of life and the brokenness in the world. And right before we went our separate ways I kept looking right back at Brandon and couldn’t help but again share the grace of God, the everlasting hope and life that is found only in Jesus. We have brought death into this world but Jesus came to bring life forever; through his life, death and resurrection.

What a powerful moment with Brandon, a story all the more weightier now as I stand here before you at Brandon’s funeral.

It’s easy to not believe in our God who is making all things new and just hear the news of Jesus as mere fiction or simply foolishness. Because even a midst hopeful words or the butterflies that represent new life and have given Brandon’s mom so much comfort in these last few days, we are still in a funeral home on a sunny summer day in South County longing for the day when there is no more need for funeral homes. This is why we need to remember and believe that death isn’t the end of our story through faith in Jesus.

I share the good news of Jesus with you and I shared it with Brandon not because that’s what I’m supposed to do or because I’m a pastor, I’m here because the love of God compels me to share it with all of you. We are all made in God’s image but because of our depravity and rebellion towards God we don’t know where to turn besides going in the same direction as before. But God, being rich in mercy offers us all a different way, the way of grace, truth, love and everlasting life.

I pray that as we continue to remember Brandon’s life, laugh at the many stories and grieve together that we will all look and turn to Jesus, the hope for Brandon and the hope for everyone.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:4-6