Trimuph Over Tragedy: The Memorial Service for Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz & Sgt. Thomas Baitinger
We gather today in the dark hour of our grief. Two good men are down. Two good men are gone. Our community is forever scarred and for two families here today, the world is forever changed by what happened on a Monday morning in St. Petersburg.
We grieve with the widow and family of Sgt. Baitinger and we grieve with and for the family of a good man named Jeffrey Yaslowitz. We mourn with his wife Lorraine, his children Caleb, Haylie, and Calen and his parents Harvey and Janice, his sisters, Stephanie, and Michelle.
The Bible says,
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Psalm 46:1-2, NIV
This week the earth has given way. The unthinkable has happened. The mountains have fallen. Tragedy has struck and we are left trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.
So where do we go for answers? To whom do we turn for strength? Where do we go when we know instinctively that we need strength beyond our own and a wisdom that exceeds ours? The Bible says God is our refuge and strength. He is our help in times of trouble.
Jeffrey Yaslowitz was a good, brave, loyal, strong man. But he was more. He was also a man of faith. And because of that we speak of his faith today, because of that and because we believe it as well.
I believe the gospel because to me it alone explains why our world can be so beautiful and yet so cursed. Why does our world at times seem like heaven, and yet on mornings like this it seems like anything but heaven. There are moments when we listen to a child’s laughter, or behold the beauty of nature, and then our serene existence crashes with the whistle of a bullet. How can it be so?
In Romans 8 the Bible says….
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
We should not think it strange that we encounter evil in this world. And what else can you call what happened Monday morning? Do not attempt to tell the men and women who wear the uniform today that there is no such thing as evil in the world. They see it. They stand against it. They have been stung by it. They know better than most that all is not well in our world. They know we live in a fallen world. They see the hatred, the violence, the deception, and the greed. They walk a thin blue line to keep such forces in check so that the rest of us may live and work and play and worship.
Today our community has been tragically reminded of the risks they take for all of us. Thank you doesn’t seem nearly enough today. But on behalf of a grateful community…thank you.
You are grieving today, perhaps angry today. It is understandable. But anger will not save you. You may be tempted to despair today and wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. It is. Far be it from me to instruct you on the topic of sacrifice. Let the life of Jeffrey Yaslowitz speak to us still. Let him not die in vain.
I have wondered in recent days what was it about the man, what is it about so many of you brave men and women that you causes you to wear the badge, take the oath, and stand on the thin line?
It isn’t the money or the thrill of adventure.