Pastor Oravec’s Sermon
A Sermon to thank God for the life of Jeffrey Hayek
Clearly, today is not about me. In fact, my role in this whole thing is very small, so I hesitate beginning in this fashion, but I will. And I do so because I think my experience might speak to where many of you are today, too.
is to say that in these past days of deep sadness, there have been two words that have stayed in my mind. And those words are: RECURRING NIGHTMARE. For, you see, right after Christmas I was away from Evangelical visiting family in Kentucky-but while there, the devastating news came that Libby had gone with Brad to the hospital. She presented with a bad headache but then collapsed, and though she received the best care possible, she passed away. So young. So beautiful. Leaving so many who loved her so much. The pain and grief were almost unimaginable.
So, last week I was away from Evangelical once again. This time at the beach in North Carolina-and there the phone call found me with the unthinkable word that Jeff had gone to the hospital, sick, with a headache. He had been taken to Children’s National Medical Center where he received the best care possible, but even with that he passed into the care of the Lord. So young. So young. So wonderful. Such a delight to his mom and dad, his brother and sister, his cousins, and friends-to everyone. How could this be? The pain and grief are unimaginable.
In fact, as I was walking down the beach praying for you all, I realized that this storm that has arisen in your lives, coupled with Libby’s death-doesn’t simply double the grief and pain-rather, it increases it exponentially. And so, those words: RECURRING NIGHTMARE.
My sense is that most of us here in this room have had thoughts along these lines as well. And I must be honest today. I don’t want to be here. Just like when Libby died-I did not want to be standing in this pulpit before you all-and my feelings are exactly the same today. If I could turn back the hands of time and change things. If somehow I had that power, I would do it in an instant. But I can’t. The world doesn’t work that way, and so we are here, and it is hard.
Now, I realize that sometimes in such situations, there are pastors who try to offer theological explanations. I will not join in that today. One can speak to the issue of pain and suffering in this world-the fancy word used by the theologians is “theodicy”-but the time for that is not now. Now we simply need to be together. Now we simply need to gather around this family in love. I rather like the custom of our Jewish brothers and sisters who “sit shiva.” It is a presence in loss that doesn’t necessarily seek to do anything except offer a presence of love and support. That’s what we need to do now and in the days and weeks and months and years ahead.
And of course, when we think about the gift of presence, I will not shy away from stating my absolute certainty that our loving Lord is very much present to us now as well. And, oh how we need his kind of presence-and, oh how we need the kind of help that only He can
give to us. For the truth we hold onto everyday, but especially this day, tells us that God loves us. So much, in fact, that He sent Jesus to come among us-alive in flesh and blood. And in His coming, Jesus offers the world the gift of seeing what living is all about-it’s about loving, and worshipping, and serving, and caring, and hoping. And in His great love, Jesus stopped at nothing to teach us a key truth that we need today.
And that truth is: that God the Father doesn’t want the world to live in the shadow of recurring nightmares.
And so Jesus died on the cross. He was buried. The Father lost His son. The Son entered the darkness and mystery of that thing that troubles us most-death itself. Why? Because only by entering it could He conquer it. But the truth of Easter reminds us that that is precisely what Jesus did. For on that Sunday long ago, Mary found the stone rolled away. The tomb was empty because Jesus was alive-never to die again! And because He is stronger than death and we belong to him- we can come to a day like today with a ray of light, called hope, that breaks into the dark place where we find ourselves right now.
And with that hope in our hearts we can start the process of saying ‘thank you’ to God for such an incredible little boy who will stay in our hearts and our minds for the rest of our earthly journey, until we go to the place where he is now. And those memories are holy. Think of him every day. Speak of him every day. When you see a little league ball game; when you drive by an elementary school; when you watch a flower bloom; when there is excitement in the house of a video game being well played; or the Ravens have won again. When cousins are laughing and your family is simply relishing the gift of being together. I know you will think of him, and we will, too.
But as Christians, we don’t just look backward because the Resurrection of Jesus reminds us that we have a future. It reminds us that right now Jeff is very much alive in a place that we can only begin to imagine. But the word from scripture tells us that it is the most beautiful place, and I like to envision it full of ball fields, and awesome vistas, and flowers in bloom, and wonderful sounds and smells and people. I like to imagine Jeff with Libby in that place, and through faith I realize that there is a fundamental truth to these visions that carry. They are more than positive thinking-but rather the fruits of the one who came to transform our recurring nightmares into our best dreams come true. That’s where Jeff is right now.
And ultimately, that’s the kind of news that you all need to hear, especially Brian, Robin, Bailey, and Evan. For the two of you as parents, I’m certain that the flood of memories in these last days has reminded you of those holy moments you shared as Jeff was growing up. Leaving him at day care the first time. Entrusting him to the school bus driver for the first time. All of these mini-milestones. And now, today, comes a similar time-though much, much, much more difficult. Today you commend your baby boy into to the care of another. And this is the most painful thing of all-but remember who is now caring for him. It is Jesus, the Lord. The one who took children unto himself because He is nothing but love and grace and strength and joy. He has received Jeff home even as He knows and understands our tears.
But today we remember that Jesus loves us too. And in that love He has made provision for us also. And what that means is that in time-and I don’t know what that will be for me-it could be 50 years from today or it could be today-but in time He will come and take us home, too. And when we get there, we will celebrate the glory of heaven, the gift of reunion. Until we get there, God calls us to worship, serve, and love in His name. And when that time does come-a time of moving into light incandescent and the joy of Paradise-when we go with Christ to our eternal home-on that day… among the many who will wait to greet us?will be Jeff. You will see him again. In Christ, you will see him again. May that hope and the Lord’s goodness sustain you.