It’s been a little bit since I posted. I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now but it’s taken me some time to be able to write this post. But it’s been rolling around in my head for awhile now.
Today is the two month sadiversary of when Chris was found. The first time I really preached since he was lost in the river was two Sundays ago on the 2 month sadiversary of when he was lost in the river. It seems like yesterday and it seems like an eternity.
The text for Sunday, June 25th was Matthew 10:24-39. I preached at Community of the Cross Lutheran Church in Bloomington that morning and at Tapestry in the afternoon. We led music, too. Not sure how I can lead music or preach, but God gives the strength.
I focused my attention on these verses for the sermon:
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.<span data-fn="#fen-NRSV-23446a" class="footnote" data-link="[a]” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”>[a]29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Josué preached with me but I’ll share here more or less what I preached as I remember it. I didn’t write it down so this will be different than what I said that morning, but close enough. Just thought I’d share it here with you.
(I’m actually continuing here July 5th. Yesterday was busy. Family and friends taking care of Austin and me. I can only do so much these days).
So more or less, my part of the sermon was something like this, with a few extra commentaries. Writing this and not being in the context changes a sermon a lot. Also, as preachers we learn not to make sermons about us too much. Well, I suppose when your son just died and it was all over the news and it’s a sadiversary, it becomes okay, even necessary you talk about yourself. So after a way too long introduction, here goes…
Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Good morning. I’m glad you be here with you this morning. As Pastor Erik said, I’m pastor Melissa Melnick and I’m here this morning with our musicians from Tapestry and we thank you for inviting us.
As many of you know, my older son Chris was lost in the river, and today is actually what my other son and I have been calling the two month sadiversary of him being lost. And as you may know, he was found dead in the river ten days later. (Here I cried and the congregation waited a few moments as I gathered myself together, or more that God lifted me up).
I came home late from the gym on that Tuesday, April 25th after a long day, and when I arrived my younger son said, “The police were here a few minutes ago. They said Chris might be lost in the Mississippi.”
And we read this text this morning…”Do not be afraid.” Well, I can tell you I waa afraid that night. I was more afraid than I’ve been in my entire life. I screamed and ran out of the house with my son and over to Chris’s house.
We didn’t really get much information from the police that night. When I finally went home that night, I was so scared that my kitties felt it. They were afraid to be near me.
About 2 or 3 nights later, I hadn’t slept much. It was probably about 4 or 5 in the morning and I laid down on my couch. My mind was going in circles and I was so scared. And then as I lay there, I had this kind of vision, or presence or something. And I felt like Jesus came to me and held me and told me not to worry because he was taking care of Chris and he was taking care of me, too.
So my mind slowed down and I slept for a little bit.
When he was lost, one of Chris’s really good friends came to me the next day. She told me she wasn’t a religious person, but she did know Chris’s favorite Bible story. It’s the story of Jesus calming the storm. Chris had found meaning in that story after his dad had a stroke four years ago and on a mission trip like your youth just came back from for Hurricane Sandy relief. Chris’s dad waa in the Neuro -ICU when they left on their trip, so when they came back, Chris practically ran to the hospital to tell his dad that even when he felt alone and afraid, he didn’t need to because Jesus was always with him.
And then a couple of days later we held a prayer vigil by the river. And we all know that a lot of young people aren’t in church anymore. Chris did come to Tapestry with me sometimes, and he came and worshiped with us and brought his dad and brother at Easter. For a long time I had told Chris he would be a preacher. In fact, that Easter, Josué also told Chris he would be a preacher. And he was radiant that day.
So at the river, some of Chris’s friends showed me small tattoos they had given themselves because Chris had told them the story and that he was thinking of getting a tattoo.
These kids, many of whom do not consider themselves religious, have the Bible tattooed on themselves now. I was right. Chris was and is a preacher. Not like I thought or hoped, but God used his life and words and faith to share the gospel of Christ’s presence in our lives with his friends and now with many people, even with strangers.
We all have times when we’re afraid. You have times in your life We have times in your life when you experience sorrow or pain, times when you suffer. That is part of our lives sometimes. All of us.
And we all have different experiences of God working in our lives. But be assured, God is here with you and among us. God chooses us in our baptism like with your little guy this morning. And God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus to walk among us, to suffer, to die, and to rise again in order that we may be forgiven and that we may know a love that is for all of us, that we may rest assured in the promise of a fullness of life that is to come. That verse from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die for us that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It’s always been important to me, but now it takes on a whole new meaning.
And we are brought into community so that we can be held up in love and prayer, so that when we can’t pray ourselves, or we are so afraid or have so much sorrow or pain, our community is with us and for us.
You don’t need to be afraid of earthly things. God knows the hairs on your head. As God cares for the littlest sparrows, God certainly cares for you. God gives us God’s own son’s body and blood in the bread and the wine that we share at communion. This is the love we share in community and in our neighborhoods. This is the love that allows me to sing and preach here with you, brothers and sisters, because on my own it would be impossible. This is the love that is for you and with you. This is the love that tells you that you don’t need to be afraid. God is with you. Always. Why be afraid? You are never alone. Amen
My sermon was something like that. Afterward, a couple shared with me that their daughter had died some years ago but that they were able to allow themselves to feel some things they hadn’t for some time. And a first-time visitor to the church said that day was the 30 year anniversary of her brother’s death and that she must have been led there that day.
Maybe we preachers need to share a little more about the hard times in our lives, the times that bring us to our knees, the times when we truly understand that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and come to him. Faith is not meant to be easy. It’s not impermeable. It’s not constant. And yet, without faith, then yes, I, at least, would be afraid.
I’m so incredibly sad. And all who are parents know that my biggest fear was realized. And still, for some reason, I must continue to share the story of God’s love through Chris, through his life and words, and even through the profound impact of his death. But I’m not alone. Neither are you.
Some of the designs Chris was thinking of for his tattoo.
A few tattoo designs from family