Last week our church family was devastated by the loss of our brother and friend Michael F. deVries.
He was killed in a motorcycle accident last Thursday.
Michael had the amazing ability to be able to connect with anyone, extending a gracious and non-judgmental hospitality to everyone he met.
This past Tuesday, we laid Michael to rest, in hopeful anticipation of the day when Christ returns to establish his heavenly kingdom on earth, restores creation, and gives us our glorified bodies.
Here is a brief reflection I offered at the funeral service:
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jason Postma. I am the Youth Pastor here at Bethel.
Although I have been here for a year and a half, during my time here I’ve had the chance to get to know Michael.
We all love Michael for his easy confidence and fun-loving attitude.
And although it is not his default setting, Michael could also be very serious and deep, a side to him that I had the privilege of seeing over the past year and a half as it began to transform his life and faith.
I first met Michael when he volunteered to be a leader at last year’s All Ontario Youth Convention.
To make a long story short, by the end of the weekend I seriously doubted Michael’s leadership abilities. Yes, he had a lot of fun and energy and the students seemed to like him – well, let me clarify, the female students liked him while the male students seemed a little put-off that a leader was providing competition in the meeting girls department. But, at the time, he didn’t seem to take things seriously enough to be an effective leader.
A few weeks later, Michael and I went out for coffee. Michael was interested in doing his “Profession of Faith”, so we went to Tim Horton’s for a chat. Immediately, I knew that he was serious about his faith. We ending up having a great conversation and I was really looking forward to joining Michael in his preparation for Profession of Faith.
I remember one of our group discussions on the problem of evil, suffering, and death. We were wrestling with the question of how an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God could permit evil and death. As a group, we were unhappy with the typical Christian response in the face of death that says “God loves you and has a plan for you”. How something that destroys the goodness of Creation ever be part of God’s plan? Isn’t death completely at odds with God’s will?
I suggested that in the face of evil and death, God is not interested in permitting or allowing evil because God is just as angry and hurt by it, if not more so, than we are. God is not interested in answering “why” because he is more concerned with putting an end to suffering and death, a commitment we see in him sending Jesus to earth, and a calling he gives to all who follow Jesus, to be his hands and feet, those who are called to respond to evil – to lament and resist and to be agents of renewal and life.
Michael’s eyes lit up as he said “now this is an answer I can believe! Now I have something hopeful that I can share with my co-workers who are struggling with trying to make sense of these things”. Because Michael took the problem of evil seriously, he was committed to looking beyond the cheap comfort provided by pat answers in order to be someone who brought life and light to our hurting world.
So, when Michael asked me this year if he could be a leader at the All Ontario Youth Convention again, although I was initially a little bit hesitant, I said yes, and I’m glad I did.
True to form, Michael was his fun-loving and trouble-making self – including an incident that involved piling nearly 40 people into and on top of his parents’ mini-van, but this time around there was a depth and seriousness to him that wasn’t there last year.
He had a remarkable impact on the boys in his small group – Michael shared his faith story – the good, the bad, and the ugly with his small group in order to help them see the amazing goodness and forgiveness of God. He wanted them to see that no matter how often he messed up that because of God’s forgiveness, he could get up, dust himself off, and try again to follow Jesus as best he could.
On the ride home from Waterloo, Michael was excited to tell me about his weekend, but at the same time he was very calm and introspective. He had a lot of fun. But he had also taken his role as a leader very seriously and as a result positively impacted the lives of his small group.
It was a blessing to be able to witness the transformation in Michael’s life and faith, how God worked in his life and took his energy and passion and began to focus and refine it, harnessing it for his purposes so that Michael was a light shining for him in our dark world. It is in this light, the light of Christ, reflected through Michael, in which we can find comfort and hope. Comfort that Michael is with Jesus and hope that Christ is making all things new and calls us, his church, to be his light to a dark world.