The substance of our faith
by Andy Gustafson
When tragedies happen, like happened in Boston this week, or in Newtown, it strikes us all very hard. It hits me very personally, especially when it involves children being murdered. It brings back memories of my own loss, when on December 1, 1987 my wife, Priscilla, and our two children, Abby who was a few days short of her eighth birthday and Billy who had just turned five, were murdered in our home by a young man we did not know, and for no apparent reason beyond the thrill of it. So I know grief, I know anger, I know the thirst for vengeance, I know darkness. But thanks to God, I also know the light shines in the darkness and that the darkness cannot overcome it.
It is hard to make sense of the senseless. It may be impossible regardless of how much we try. We cherish life and seek to do whatever we can to make life better and longer. But no matter what we do to reduce violence, to fight cancer, to make our highways safer, to eat healthier, all of which are good things, we still are not going to get out of this life alive. When faced with tragedy, whether it is personal or experienced collectively as we all have this last week, we are faced with a choice as to how we will respond: Will we let the darkness of hate infect our hearts, or will we chose to let perfect love cast out all fear. What I said at the funeral for my family is what I say to you this morning. The only fitting way to remember and honor those we have loved and lost is to live lives dedicated to love. I left the practice of law to work for the church to do my part in helping churches spread God’s reign of love on earth.
The business of the church is love. That is the substance of our faith. The world needs us now more than ever. It needs our message of faith, hope and love. And that is the legacy we want to leave – a legacy of love.
1. Charlotte Bell wrote on 4/19/2013 12:00:00 AM
Dearest Andy, You are indeed an inspiration and exemplify living into what Jesus taught, "to love one another as I have loved you". Heartfelt blessings my friend.
2. Doreen Oughton wrote on 4/19/2013 12:00:00 AM
I have not been tearful about any of this until I read your words. Your sharing touches me deeply, and you somehow enabled me to experience both the suffering and the hope/love of Christ that is being played out in our world. Thank you and bless you.
3. Wendy Vander Hart wrote on 4/19/2013 2:28:39 PM
Andy your faith is an inspiration - thank you for being vulnerable and bearing witness in these days.
4. Ian Lynch wrote on 4/19/2013 2:38:57 PM
Thank you so very much for being vulnerable enough to share this very personal reflection. No one should ever know the pain you have felt, but everyone should strive to show the love you have shown in response. Bless you.
5. Laura Biddle wrote on 4/19/2013 2:47:33 PM
Dear Andy, What a beautiful message. Thank you.
6. Kathie Carpenter wrote on 4/19/2013 2:48:54 PM
Andy, this story takes my breath away, as does your amazing grace in emerging from it. Thank you. It is a strong and loving lesson and example.
7. Heather Lucas wrote on 4/19/2013 2:54:17 PM
Dear Andy, thank you for your courage in sharing, in living your faith and in the powerful words you share- to be dedicated to love. Amen.
8. Diane Ranney wrote on 4/19/2013 3:04:46 PM
Thank you Andy. It is easier to give in to the forces of hate...you epitomize the love of God....despite your own pain. What a wonderful tribute to your family and an inspiration to all of us.
9. Denise Karuth wrote on 4/19/2013 3:11:21 PM
O my God! Andy, I had no idea that this had happened to you and your lovely family. Saying "I am so sorry" doesn't begin to convey my shock and sorrow. You are such a kind, gentle man. Knowing that you and your family endured this breaks my heart. When I think of and pray for the perpetrators of violence I keep coming back to the realization that it must take a great deal to warp someone to the point where they would decide to do commit such terrible acts. Andy, your ability to love in the context of such a tremendous loss is awe-inspiring and makes me love and respect you even more. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." God bless you, Andy.
10. Vicki Kemper wrote on 4/19/2013 3:59:36 PM
What everyone else has already said, Andy. Thank you for this powerful witness to love and healing, and for reminding us that our own wounds and scars are proof of resurrection. Blessings to you--
11. Bob Livingston wrote on 4/19/2013 4:09:06 PM
Thank you, Andy. You bless us all.
12. Judy Proctor wrote on 4/19/2013 4:15:29 PM
Thanks for sharing from you heart, Andy. May God continue to bless you and your ministry of Christ's Love.
13. molly baskette wrote on 4/19/2013 4:15:34 PM
Wow, Andy. I had no idea. What a disciple and a model of grace and redemption you are.
14. Holly Martineau wrote on 4/19/2013 4:23:07 PM
Andy - I cannot imagine the strength it takes to survive such loss. You are an inspiration for us all. Thank you for sharing.
15. Grace Murray wrote on 4/19/2013 4:53:22 PM
Andy, thank you for your witness. And thank you for shining this light, even as it brings to mind your loss.
16. Joanna Bickford wrote on 4/19/2013 5:04:17 PM
Thank you,Andy. May it be so! Amen and Amen.
17. Martha Congdon wrote on 4/19/2013 5:30:30 PM
Andy, So sad that you have had that burden to bear and so grateful that you have done it with the love, trust in God, humility you demonstate and .to our benefit - in our company...for that we are blessed. Thank you so for sharing.
18. Peter wells wrote on 4/19/2013 5:39:05 PM
Amen my friend amen
19. liz cocco wrote on 4/19/2013 5:56:09 PM
Andy I agree with all that you have written, I am sorry for your loss and i admire your compassion for all that are effected by the recent tragdies of Boston and Newtown. Living and loving thru our lord is the right path for all of us. Thank You Andy
20. Linda Kreil wrote on 4/19/2013 6:03:25 PM
Andy, I have heard your story before. Thank you so much for sharing it again. Even more, thank you for reminding us through your example and words that we have a choice about how we react to evil and tragedy. The love and compassion we offer to others is the light of Christ that leads us all through the darkness. Blessings to you.
21. Sarah Hubbell wrote on 4/19/2013 6:15:28 PM
Andy, I never knew the depth of your love for the God of forgiveness till now. Bless you for sharing this.
22. Quentin Chin wrote on 4/19/2013 6:56:48 PM
Andy- Thank you. Your witness is powerful. Words cannot express how important your reflection is.
23. Gretchen Elmendorf wrote on 4/19/2013 7:41:55 PM
Andy, thank you for your tremendous love and witness. May you and your family be forever blessed with love that knows no end. Your generous heart helps strengthen us as a family of faith needing light.
24. Gail Wright wrote on 4/19/2013 9:06:49 PM
Thank you that out of unimaginable pain you share what we all need to hear.
25. Debbie Clark wrote on 4/19/2013 10:59:03 PM
Thank you Andy
26. Judy Hanlon wrote on 4/20/2013 8:45:59 AM
As you have answered questions, planned strategies for church growth, and attended so many 'church' events quietly and graciously, your life has been such a SERMON of love to us and thus, the world. This will be a part of my sermon on Sunday. It is what our broken hearts need to hear. We are about LOVE! Blessings and gratitude, Judy
27. Jill Graham wrote on 4/20/2013 9:15:11 AM
Bless you Andy. Thank you for your vulnerable, powerful testimony...it is what makes God's love real.
28. Pam McGrath wrote on 4/20/2013 10:25:28 AM
Thank you Andy. Your witness moved me to tears and reminded me that sometimes those who have been in the darkness can point us most clearly toward the light.
29. Pam McGrath wrote on 4/20/2013 10:28:59 AM
Thank you Andy. Your words of wisdom and compassion remind me of how those who have faced the darkness can best witness to us about the light.
30. Wendy Mattis wrote on 4/20/2013 10:49:36 AM
Amen to that Andy. Thanks for sharing.
31. Dee Ledger wrote on 4/20/2013 1:42:46 PM
Thank you, Andy, for your words of wisdom and grace.
32. Elaine Gaetani wrote on 4/20/2013 2:23:58 PM
In your voice, in your words, in your experience, I know where God is in all of this. Amen & Amen.
33. Betsy Sowers wrote on 4/20/2013 2:58:56 PM
Thank you, Andy. I will never forget your creating a fence made of angels for your cottage at the Vineyard. May those angels still surround you.
34. Fred Anderson wrote on 4/20/2013 3:27:08 PM
Andy, you are truly a channel of God's redeeming love and grace. Thank you for being you.
35. Jim Tilbe wrote on 4/21/2013 7:26:15 AM
Thank you for sharing this Andy. You have shared a beacon of God's light, as it shines in a world full of terrifying shadows.
36. Laura Ruth jarrett wrote on 4/24/2013 11:16:30 PM
Thank you, Andy. Powerful and deep.