The sun was shining bright and directly into my eyes. I turned left at a lonely country intersection and BAM!
My little Datsun was slammed into by a large delivery truck doing 60 miles an hour.
He hit me right behind the back door and the car spun round and round like a top,then WHAM! I stopped, wedged into the ditch on the side of the road.
Every window in the car was broken, the steering wheel was broken, the seat was broken.
My head was in the backseat, passenger side and my feet were under the steering wheel and I couldn’t breathe.I literally COULD NOT BREATHE. That truck knocked the wind out of me.
The wreck was witnessed by one of my parishioners, Kitty Hightower. She ran to my car and leaned in the broken window. “Pastor, Pastor are you all right?”
Well no, I wasn’t all right. I couldn’t breathe. There was no air in my lungs and I didn’t seem to be able to get any in there.
I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even move; I just stared at her with my mouth open.
Kitty started crying, and then started screaming to the men rushing over from the country store, “He’s dead, He’s dead. Oh my God, the Pastor’s dead!”
Which is, I assure you, a peculiar thing to have screamed in your ear when you are indeed very much alive.
After what seemed like an eternity I was able to get a bit of air into my lungs and was able to lift a hand and touch Kitty on the shoulder;which, in retrospect, was not the best thing to do, seeing as how she thought I was dead and all.
When I touched her on the shoulder, she jerked her head up and looked at me with real terror in her eyes.
Finally, I squeezed out the words, “It’s alright Kitty, I’m not dead.”
It was an odd thing to find myself in that position; the one who had been hurt comforting the onlooker.
But that is the position in which we find Jesus in our Gospellesson; the one who was hurt bringing solace to the witnesses.
On the Evening of that first Easter, the disciples were meeting in a room, probably the same room in which they had held their Passover.
They had the door shut, bolted, locked.
They had given up everything to follow Jesus, and this is not how they expected things to turn out.
Just a week ago, on Palm Sunday, they had entered the city with such gigantically high hope, and now this.
This, this, disaster.
And on that first Easter evening, Jesus the Christ came to the disciples in that locked and airless room and breathed new life into them.
At one time or another all of us are like the disciples were on that first Easter evening.
We too have had the wind knocked out of us.
Some of us gathered here have lost loved ones unexpectedly,some of us are struggling with the diagnosis of a long-term illness in the family, some of us have had job losses,
some of us have lost economic security, some of us have failed to get that promotion (or that call) we had hoped for, our children haven’t worked out the way we hoped, our marriages are hurting.
All of us have had the wind knocked out of us, sometime; probably sometime lately.
Believe you me, in times like those, the big picture fades away and all your energy is centered on surviving, on breathing, on taking one more precious breathe,and anything other than present personal experience becomes difficult to believe in or focus on.
Writing in Christianity Today, Tim Stafford talks about an object lesson Pastor Stephen Bilynski uses with his confirmation class.
He comes to the very first class with a jar full of jelly beans and asks the class to guess how many are in the jar. He writes all their estimates on the board.
Then he asks the boys and girls to name their favorite songs and he lists those on the board.
Finally the class counts the beans to see who was closest to right. Then Pastor Steve points to the list of songs and asks, “And which one of these is closest to being right?”
And of course the students protest that there is no right answer; that a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste and circumstance; purely personal preference. (Which would, I suppose, explain my predilection for Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale.”)
At this point, Pr. Steve comes to the point of the entire exercise: “When you decide what to believe about God, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song”
In the article, Pastor Steve says he has done this numerous times over the last 20 years, and always, always, the answer, from teen-agers and from adults, is the same:
“Choosing what to believe about God is like choosing one’s favorite song.”
In modern America, we have transferred faith from the realm of fact to the world of feelings. And the problem with that is, we seldom feel like believing.
Or more accurately, those personal experiences that would convince us to believe in God are few and far between, practically non-existent; and those things that would cause us to disbelieve, that knock the wind out of us, are much louder, persistent and frequent.
This is why what Jesus did in that room with those disciples is so important to us. Jesus reminded them where he came from “Just as the Father sent me,” and then he reminded them where they were going, “So I send you!”
Then he filled them with the Holy Spirit the way God the Creator filled the lungs of Adam and Eve with the very air we breathe, the wind that gives us life.
Lastly, he reminded them what their calling was, what they were being sent out filled with the Holy Spirit to do “Forgive sins.”
All this says to us that whether God loves us or not is not dependent on whether we’re feeling the love or not.
It is dependent upon God’s choice to love us; a choice God made and will never undo.
Whether God is involved in our lives is not dependent upon whether or not our grand plans and schemes for ourselves or for God are working out or not;
God’s involvement in our lives is again God’s choice, a choice Gad has already made and will not unmake.
All the disciples, Thomas and the others, had an advantage we do not and will not have; they got to see the Risen Lord.
But we have an advantage they did not; we have seen the fact that the Church and the Gospel are still going strong 2000 years later; again, not because of us, but because of God.
Amen and amen.