The following is a sermon I preached on July 29th, the Sunday immediately following the evening when another car ran a stop sign and slammed into my car. Though both cars were totaled, no one was seriously injured.
“After My Car Accident”
Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.
~ Joan Didion
This is our story; our giving of thanks.
~ Wendell Berry
On Thursday evening, Ginny and I went out to pick up a few presents for my cousin. She is attending Virginia Tech in the fall and, to celebrate this accomplishment, had scheduled a graduation party for that Saturday in North Carolina. We wanted to get her a few simple items for her dorm room, like a trashcan, sticky notes, a dry-erase board…all plastered, of course, with the Hokie logo! So we got into our car.
But I’d like to preface this story with a dream from over a year and a half ago. Ginny and I were still unable to conceive a child. In the midst of this frustration, she dreamed. She saw herself cradling a newborn infant in her arms. A little girl.
One of the theories involved in dream interpretation is that a part of you is represented in every single person in your dream. In other words, Ginny was not only the mama; she was also the baby. We’ve come to think of her dream as symbolic of God holding her, as close and as tenderly as a loving mother. Indeed, the Psalms imagine us taking refuge under the wings of the Lord. Jesus himself said he longed to gather the children of Jerusalem like a mother hen gathers her brood underneath her wings. We like to think that we are the ones in charge, the ones who do the cradling and the gathering… and yet, let us give thanks for the story of being in God’s arms. Back to last Thursday:
We were successful in purchasing the Hokie items for my cousin. We even picked up some ice cream for us to enjoy! On the way out of the door, we saw a dear friend and she excitedly told us about a wonderful visit with her grandson. Smiling and laughing, we gave thanks for family. For hers and for ours. And our church family too. And then we got back into the car.
This morning in worship, we heard another one of Jesus’ parables about masters and servants. Unlike last week, when the master rewards or punishes his servants based upon their productivity with talents (Mt 25:14–30), this master does something very different. In fact, he doesn’t act like a master at all! When he arrives, he puts on servant’s clothes and begins waiting on the slaves (Luke 12:37)! The roles are completely reversed! What a strange master who comes to serve, rather than be served.
Last Thursday, I was driving up Highway 100. Up ahead, I saw traffic from the county fair. Then a car speeding at us! I hit the breaks. Ginny screamed. Crunch of metal. Air bag exploding into my chest. We spun for what seemed like an eternity and an instant. Then we were still. So still.
Smoke in the air. Pain in my leg. Check Ginny. “Andrew,” she spoke clearly, though obviously shocked, “We are in an accident.” Not, we were in an accident! Not, we have been in an accident. We are…right now…this is where we are. Then at the same moment, we thought of our baby!
“Do not be afraid, little flock,” said Jesus, the one who came to serve rather than be served, the same one who longs to gather us in his arms like a mother hen gathers her brood. As we sang in our assurance of pardon this morning: Don’t be afraid; my love is stronger. My love is stronger than your fear.
Oh, but our baby!
Get out of the car. Sit down in the grass. People running. Shouting. Screaming! Broken glass everywhere like shattered dreams. First, voices talking at us; then, into their cell phones. Soon, red lights flashing. EMS, men and women, running always running…
I see Ginny, her hands bloody, wrapped around her womb, as if cradling her child from the outside in, if only to keep him safe now…now that we had been in an accident. Now that we are here. Safe. In the grass. You. Me. Our baby. Our gift so long waited for, our gift so hoped for.
Don’t be afraid…but how can you not? In those split seconds, how terribly fast does the mind the spin out the worst possible situations…my deepest, darkest fears, suddenly a real possibility. Don’t be afraid…how can I not? I do not have control, anymore than I could have stopped that car…
“Andrew,” Ginny, hands bloody, tears falling, “Our baby’s moving. He’s moving!”
Don’t be afraid, little flock; for it is your father’s gracious will to give the kingdom to you (Luke12:32). But just what is this kingdom?
Know this: it is not here, not now. Not when someone else’s baby is lost in a moment of crunching metal and blinding smoke. Not when life changes so fast. In an instant. Not when life as you know it ends.
So, no; the kingdom is not here, not now…not until, God comes to gather all his children, to hold us all in her loving arms, cradling us close and wiping away every tear from every eye! No, the kingdom is not here, not now…
But for now, in certain unspeakably glorious moments…this kingdom is felt.
This kingdom is a complete surprise. This kingdom blindsides us, forever changing our perspective. This kingdom blindsides us in an instant. And we suddenly understand…like when we hear about a master who serves his slaves. Or we listen with our hearts, to a story of thanks…a story about a baby who comforts his mom and dad from the womb: “Don’t worry, Mommy,” my yet unborn son communicates with his tiny hands, reaching out to touch her, as if cradling her from the inside out. “Mommy, don’t be afraid.”
This is our story; our giving of thanks…our thanks to God.