Saturday, March 11, 2017

In Memoriam Andrew Remus

Dear Friends,

On Shrove Tuesday Andrew Remus, a promising twenty-two-year-old chef, died after ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl.  A VST graduate referred the family to Saint Faith's where we held Andrew's memorial service on Friday.

With Andrew's death the fentanyl crisis now has a name and a face for me.  Here is my homily from Friday.


In Memoriam Andrew Remus
3 July 1994 – 28 February 2017

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
10 March 2017

+ My friends, may only God’s truth be spoken and may only God’s truth be heard.  Amen.

            Today we have gathered to remember Andrew, to mourn his death and to lament the tragedy that claimed his life and the lives of so many others in Metro Vancouver.  He died on the day when many Christians began preparing their hearts and minds for the spiritual journey of Lent, a journey that leads us through suffering and death of Christ to the promise of the resurrection and God’s promised reign of justice and peace.

            When tragedies such as Andrew’s death occur, we are likely, whether we think of ourselves as religious or not, to ask why God would allow this to happen.  Often the question is phrased as ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’  I can only share with you what I believe.

            I believe in a God who brought creation into being as an act of love.  Because God is love, God has given to human beings the most precious yet most dangerous gift there is:  the freedom to choose to act in love and the freedom to choose to act in our own self-interest.  What God seeks is that we love God and that we love one another as God has loved and loves us.  But love, genuine love, is only possible when we have the freedom to choose.  Love cannot be coerced; love cannot be demanded.  Love can only be freely given by one human being to another.

            Here is where the danger lies.  If we are free to love, then we are free not to love.  Every grandparent, parent, teacher, anyone who has committed her or his life to nurturing young people in their journey to adulthood knows that moment when we must let go.  The young person whom we love goes into a world where the freedom not to love abounds.

            We who gather to lament Andrew’s death do so because we love and have loved Andrew.  Many here today have seen Andrew grow up and stand at the threshold of a promising future.  But Andrew is dead because of other human beings who have chosen not to love, who seek profit from the pain of others and who have chosen the path of unenlightened and criminal self-interest.

            It is a dangerous yet precious freedom and power that God has given to us.  Love has the power to create and nurture life in abundance, just as the absence of love has the power to corrupt and destroy the beloved children of God.

            So we still ask the question ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’  It is the question on the hearts of many.  But I think that there is a more important question that you and I must ponder:  What do good people do when bad things happen?

            When everything is said and done, when Andrew is laid to rest, when we return to our everyday lives, how are we going to use the freedom and power of love that God has given to each one of us?  How will we confront the evil that robbed Andrew of his future, so that he does not become a mere sad statistic in the current opioid crisis in Metro Vancouver?  This is the obligation that remembering Andrew lays upon each one of us.  It is an active not a passive responsibility to remember someone we have loved and who has loved us.

            At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that the love of one person for others can transform the world.  Each one of us here has the same freedom and the same power to transform our own network of relationships.  As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written,

Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death;
vict’ry is ours through God who loves us.

            May we, whom God loves and who love Andrew, leave this place with a renewed commitment to honour Andrew with lives that confront the darkness that claimed his life with the love that is stronger than hate.  For this is what good people do when bad things happen.


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