Summary: Sermon for a 19 year old mother and her 20 month old son who were murdered
Domonique Sterling and Robert Claiborne
What does one say when we face the brutal murder of two people so young? How are we to find the words to express the devastation in the hearts of Dana and Kevin and their families. Words seem completely inadequate. I know nothing that I can say which will take away the loss you have suffered. Nothing can explain away a tragedy like this. And nothing will replace the pain and suffering in our hearts today.
What I do know is that it is not supposed to be like this. A mother and father are not supposed to be burying their daughter and grandson. When God created this world, the order was that we were to live long lives and it was be every adult child’s right of passage to bury their parents. It is not supposed to be like this. Brothers and sisters should not be confronted with the death of one of their own at such a young age, long before the mysteries of death and such senseless violence can be comprehended. It’s not supposed to be like this with communities living in fear of crime, violence and senseless murders.
It’s not supposed to be like this. A young woman who was only beginning her life, who was sweet and beautiful and intelligent, who was helping out a friend as she always did and doing what she loved most, caring for kids, suddenly having her life taken away, before she ever really got it going. It’s not supposed to be like this. A toddler who you could just sit back and watch in amazement and laughter as explored the world in which he lived, who was fun and lovable and curious now and of course who loved to eat has his life ended prematurely. A child who still was innocent but whose life was seized by the harsh realities of the violence and sin-stained world.
It’s not supposed to be like this. On a beautiful spring day which God has given us and with signs of new life springing all around us in the flowers and trees and the birds and animals and their newborns, and we find ourselves gripped by the darkness of death.
It was not supposed to be this way. I also know that this was not God’s will. God did not aim that gun. God’s finger did not pull the trigger. God did not number the days of a 19 year and a toddler. I also know this: that God is right here with us and he understands our pain and grief, he knows what it means to lose a son to the violence of a senseless murder.
These deaths raise serious questions in our hearts and minds. Questions about the circumstances and truth behind such a horrible tragedy. Questions about justice. Questions about life and death. Questions about a God who allows something like this to happen. Questions like what do I do now and how can I go on? A blow like this can seemingly take your breath away and drain you of the will and strength to carry on. It can make you so sad and frightened that you feel as if you cannot go on. We must find a way to go on, to continue our lives and to recover that sense of meaning and purpose.
The people who took Domonique and Robert from us must not be allowed to take our lives and our souls too. Every one of us, myself included, has felt the desire for Domonique and Robert’s killers to not only be brought to justice but to suffer death as they did. Profound anger and a desire for revenge is only natural as we seek to come to grips with this terrible tragedy and to come to grips with the reality of it all. But it must not be allowed to direct our lives, lest our lives and our souls become casualties too. Longing for justice and lusting for revenge are two different things. Justice is one part of the healing process. Revenge, on the other hand, is a slow but deadly poison in the soul. It offers us no lasting relief and it makes us no better than the murderers.
For us, there must be another way. The same freedom that allows us to choose life and love and forgiveness also allows us to choose death and hate. Domonique and Robert’s death was brought about by the same kind of cruel and mindless hatred that once nailed Jesus to the cross. It is significant that just hours after Christians across this city and world commemorated the scourging, crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross that Domonique and Robert were gunned down by the very same kind of violence and sin that put Jesus on the cross in the first place. We know all too well that sin and violence still stain our world, our city and our lives and today is a poignant reminder of that.