Friday, November 27, 2009

Sermon for 11/29/09-First Sunday in Advent (LSB-C)

This sermon will be preached at Grace Lutheran Church in Houma, Louisiana. Pastor Rich Rudnik, whom I am pleased to call my pastor, has asked me to fill in for him while he's on vacation.

The Days Are Coming

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Before I begin this morning, let me say, “Happy New Year!” The First Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the worship life of the church. The last few Sundays our readings moved our focus toward the end of the world, the Day of Judgment, the return of Christ in glory to judge both the living and the dead. This week we return to the life of Christ. As you may know, the word Advent means “coming”. Our focus especially during these next few weeks is the fulfillment of the promise of Immanuel, God in the flesh making His dwelling with us to accomplish the salvation the Father promised to us.

The prophet Jeremiah talks about that promise in our Epistle for today. Last week, Pastor Rudnik spoke of the persecution the Church faces as the Day of Judgment draws near. Jeremiah’s audience would find out about persecution not long after the prophet delivered these words to God’s people. God’s people were about to be taken into exile, taken away from the land which God had brought them to in the time of Moses and Joshua. They would be a people without a home, a people who were being punished for their faithlessness toward God. Yet even before that exile began, God spoke this promise, a word of comfort, to the people: they would be restored. What they would see—and what they wanted to see—was a restoration to the land to which God had brought their fathers. More than that, though, God spoke of the complete restoration of the relationship between God and His people—not only His Old Testament people, but all people of all times and places.

The Old Testament people of God spent a lot of time looking back. When they were in the wilderness, they looked back with longing at the glorious days of their slavery in Egypt. When they were in exile, they looked back with longing to their golden age under King David and King Solomon. Even in the time of Jesus, when the very fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam and Eve, the promised Messiah, stood in their midst, they looked back to their father, Abraham, and saw in their forefather the glory of their race and the assurance of God’s goodness to them. They were the people who had received the promise of the Messiah, but even having that promise fulfilled right before their eyes, they could not help but long for the glorious days of their past, the days of the great Kingdom of Israel. In their vanity over the past glories of their time as God’s chosen people, they could not comprehend that the Son of David was in their midst, the Promise fulfilled. They had received the promise, but the One who fulfilled that promise stood among them, unnoticed. Now they wait for someone who has already come.

This affliction is not just limited to Old Testament Judaism. We Christians know a good bit about looking back fondly at our golden years. Many Christians look back at the time before Luther and the Reformation as a great time in the Church, but in reality, people were being forced to pay for forgiveness and the Bible itself was not accessible to the vast majority. Many of us look back fondly on the 1950s as a great time for the Church, since congregation membership and worship attendance was so much higher than it is today. Yet the vast majority of churches offered the gifts of God only once a month or even once every three months, holding the Sacrament away from the people. We look back at our past with reverence and longing, forgetting the importance of what God gives us in the Divine Service, forgetting the nearness of the Day of Judgment.

But “the day is coming,” says the Lord. We saw in the readings for last Sunday how the signs have been and are being fulfilled in our sight. And in some ways, we should be looking back. We should look back and see the promises that God made to His Old Testament people, and we should rejoice in how gracious God was in perfectly fulfilling His promises. We should look back to Christ on the cross and see him bearing our sins there. We should look back to Christ as He taught the disciples and see in His teachings the very truth on which the Church is built—the truth which, when ignored, tears down individuals, congregations, and whole church bodies. And we should look back at how Jesus instituted Holy Baptism, His own Supper, and Holy Absolution as means of grace in which we receive the forgiveness of sins. We ignore these things at our own peril, for we see in these things the great salvation which Christ achieved for us and the great reconciliation He brought about between God and man.

Yet in looking back at these things, we also look forward to the day when that reconciliation will be complete. Christ died for us, yet we are still sinners in our sainthood. The day is coming when we will no longer be sinners, when we will have been restored in the image of God. The doctrine which we have received, handed down from the Apostles, is what we as sinner are able to know—what we see now through a mirror, dimly. The day is coming when we shall know and comprehend the full counsel of God. The Holy Supper feeds our souls and gives us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Yet it is only a foretaste. The day is coming when we shall be welcome at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.

So yes, we do look back and see the grace of God throughout the history of the Church. We cling to the teachings of the past—not as an obsolete relic of a bygone era, but as a relevant and real revelation for the Church, the people of God, for all time. This is not only your father’s Church or your grandfather’s Church; it is your children’s Church and your grandchildren’s Church, too. God does not change. His teachings do not change. And His gifts—the forgiveness of sins, His body and blood, and eternal salvation—do not change.

In the season of Advent, we celebrate Christ as He comes to us. We celebrate Christ as Emmanuel, God coming to us in the flesh as a child in a lowly manger. We celebrate Christ as the Messiah, riding on a lowly donkey on His way to bear our sins on the cross and to rise again as our Savior. We celebrate Christ as the Lamb of God who comes to us in His body and blood, feeding our bodies and our souls. And we celebrate Christ as the King who will return again in glory. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord. Christ is coming! Christ has come! And Christ will come again! God has made that promise, and you can count on it! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For all you turkeys out there

I'm a Facebook person. Yes, I'm one of those. I while my days away with idle chatter and silliness. Actually, I don't play any games, and I mainly use it to keep in touch with old friends. Anyway, as you couldn't help but notice, today is the Day of National Thanksgiving. I wasn't feeling very schmaltzy today, so I posted the following status message:

Alan Kornacki is thankful for his job that stresses him out so much that he eats more than he should until he has reached the point that he looks like a beached whale. He's thankful that his son is autistic. He's thankful for four years outside parish ministry. He's thankful for knees that ache, fingers that don't do what he wants them to do, and a head that needs SPF 60 to get through a summer day. In *everything* give thanks.

This might sound a bit sarcastic. But that's not how it was intended. Each of these things, and hundreds of more that can (and do) often seem like frustrations and messes are things which God uses to demonstrate His goodness in my life.

When I moved with my family to Louisiana four years ago, I had no job and no prospects for a job. This part of Louisiana is mainly oil and gas with some shipbuilding thrown into the mix. The available jobs at the time called mainly for laborers with mechanical skills, and I have none. I applied for every job for which I was remotely qualified . . . and even some for which I wasn't. When the job at the community center opened up a year after I left Ohio, it was a true blessing. Here was a job for which my life experience had made me uniquely qualified. It's not parish ministry, which is where my heart is and where I hope to return sooner rather than later. But it's a good job, a worthwhile job, a stimulating job, and one which I can actually do. I may find it frustrating at times, and I let myself wallow in the frustrations too much at times, but it's a job. I can do it, and by doing it I support my family.

Michael is autistic. Communicating with my son is difficult, but he's a smart and healthy little boy who just has trouble expressing himself in verbal way. I was the same way, and I wasn't autistic. But I have a son, one who I love as much as my other children, one who reminds me daily that it doesn't take a whole mess of words to express love to someone.

You all know that I greatly desire a return to parish ministry. Yet the past four years have been a blessing. I got to spend nearly a year being a full-time father to my newborn twins. I've been able to preach in over a dozen churches in the Southern District. I've been able to grow in areas that will aid me when I do return to the parish. I'll be a very happy man when I return to parish ministry, but until then, I'll continue to learn and grow as a man and as a pastor.

As for my body falling apart . . . It's not easy to look at myself in the mirror and be pleased with what I see. That's my fault. I've been a poor steward of this gift God has given me. Yet I have a body with four limbs that work mostly the way they should, a head that works right most of the time, and enough strength to deal with most of the things that I face in a day. Now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm going to be a better steward of this gift and try to appreciate it a bit more. (Besides, I'd rather be bald than grey.)

It's easy to be thankful for the things we want, for the things that go well. It's not so easy to be thankful when things don't go the way we want them. In the Lord's Prayer we pray, "Thy will be done." Sinner that I am, I'd certainly prefer that my will be done, yet it somehow always works out so much better when I don't try to get in the way of God doing His work in my life. Each of these things allow me to be weak so that I can see the power of God in my life.

I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." God grant us all the ability and will to do so. And God help me to remember this lesson daily, since it's all too easy to forget.

By the way, in addition to everything else, I'm thankful for all the people who take the time to read this blog. A blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day to all of you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hymn: When All Was Still at Midnight's Hour

In a previous post I spoke of writing a Christmas hymn, one with which I am not entirely happy. Something about it just doesn't . . . feel right. I know that sounds esoteric and "touchy-feely", but I tend to write by instinct, with my gut, if you know what I mean. (Please, no silly comments about writing with fingers.) I write what sounds good to me.

Fifteen years ago, I probably wouldn't have shared this poem with anyone. I was not a confident person when I was younger, and criticism always seemed harsher to me than it was likely intended to be. These days, especially now that I've started this new venture into writing hymns, feedback is appreciated and even necessary. I like to think I'm more confident now than I was as a teen--though one thing is for certain: I couldn't be any less confident now than I was then.

All that being said, here it is. Let me know what you think.

When All Was Still at Midnight's Hour

1. When all was still at midnight's hour,
The Word almighty came,
Descending from the royal throne--
Immanuel, His name.

2. The Word was God. In Him was life--
His life, the light of all.
That light shines in the darkness drear
And overcomes the fall.

3. His glory is revealed to us,
And we behold His grace--
The glory of the Father's Son
Who saves our sinful race.

4. Immanuel: God dwells with us,
His blessings to bestow.
Forgiveness, life He gives by faith
To sinners here below.

5. "All glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth to men."
Thus angels sang, and with them we
Repeat the hymn again.

(c) Alan Kornacki, jr.
86 866
Tune: Lobt Gott, Ihr Christen (LSB 389)
(It can also be sung without the repeated last line with the tune Consolation, LSB 348.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hymn: Immanuel—God Dwells With Us

The Christmas reading from John 1:1-14 is one of my favorite portions of Holy Scripture. Especially moving is verse 14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

Meditating on the grace which is explicit in that statement has a profound effect upon me, and I can't help but make the jump from Christmas, where the Word becomes incarnate, to those places in my own life where He makes His presence known to me in very real ways. John 1 can't help but be sacramental.

Immanuel—God Dwells With Us

1. Immanuel—God dwells with us.
To us a child is born!
The Word appears in human flesh
To save the lost, forlorn.
We praise You, Christ, Incarnate Word,
Who came our sins to bear.
Where two or three join in Your name
You make Your dwelling there.

2. Immanuel—God dwells with us
Through ordinary means.
When water joins your holy Word
Forgiveness, life it brings.
By Your command and promise, Lord,
It cleanses us from shame.
All nations need this holy flood
Which marks us with Your name.

3. Immanuel—God dwells with us
In body and in blood.
Through simple bread and wine, we taste
And see the Lord is good.
Your presence in this holy feast
Is our rich blessing, Lord.
Faith makes us worthy to receive
This gift by all adored.

4. Immanuel—God dwells with us.
Continue, Christ, we pray,
To grace us with Your presence here.
Lord Jesus, come and stay!
We gather ‘round these precious gifts
Through which we are Your own
Until that day You welcome us
Before our Father’s throne.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
C M D (86 86 86 86)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sermon for 11/22/09-The Last Sunday in the Church Year (LSB-B)

This sermon will be preached this Sunday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thank you to the Reverend Doctor Paul Anderson for inviting me to share the Word with the people God has placed into his care.

Stars Shall Fall
Mark 13:24-37

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

One of my favorite hymns is “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”, hymn number 394 in your Lutheran Service Book. The fourth verse reads:
Sun and moon shall darkened by,
Stars shall fall, the heav’ns shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign;
All will then the trumpet hear,
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.
If some of those words sound familiar, it’s because much of the verse is quoted in our Gospel text. It’s a powerful and even terrible image of the signs leading up to the Day of Judgment. Genesis 8:11 tells us, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Yet a day is coming when these things will no longer take place.

By these signs and others given in Scripture, many have tried to predict the day and the hour of the Lord’s return in glory. Heck, I could even do it now. Let’s see . . . We’ve already had eclipses, so the sun and moon have been darkened. Michael Jackson died, and I can’t imagine a bigger star than him, so you could say that stars have fallen. And clouds move away all the time, so the heavens have fled. Why, Jesus should be coming back any time now. We might not even get through the Divine Service this morning!

Now, I’m sure you can tell I’m not serious about my prediction, even though Jesus could very well could return before we’re done this morning. But many make predictions based on whatever evidence they choose, and they cling to those predictions to the bitter end. One of the best-selling books on the end times is The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. Even though, by his reckoning, the world was supposed to end sometime in the 1980s, the book is still being printed and sold today! He has made other predictions since then, but one would think he would have given up after being wrong the first time. And if that’s not enough, look at all the furor around the next big prophecy: that the world will end in the year 2012. It may end during that year, though it won’t be because someone predicted that it would.

Jesus would rather not have us focus on when the end will be. After all, no human knows. The angels don’t know. Jesus tells us that even He doesn’t know. People who claim to be able to predict the Day of Judgment are claiming that they know more than Jesus! Only the Father knows the day and the hour, and He’s not telling. Jesus has shown us the signs, and we recognize that these signs are being fulfilled in our sight, even as they were being fulfilled in the days of the disciples. We’ve been waiting nearly two-thousand years since Jesus spoke the words of our text to the disciples, and the day has not yet come. Yet we are living in the last days, which could last another ten thousand years . . . or another ten seconds. It’s enough that we know that the end is coming; it’s not for us to know exactly when.

We don’t need some crackpot standing on the corner with a hand-painted sign to tell us that the end is near. We already know that. Jesus has told us of that wondrous day, the day when He will return in glory, when His holy angels will gather us together to be with our Lord, when all trials and sorrows and illness and death will cease, when those who believe will be restored in the image of God. He has told us that He is coming soon. What is important for us as we wait is to be prepared—to watch for Jesus, to be ready for His return. Don’t get me wrong: Jesus is not telling you to save yourself. That has already been done, and nothing you can do can add to the work that Jesus has already done on your behalf. Rather, we are well prepared when we hear the Word of God and cling to it.

Jesus gives us the brief parable of the doorman who is waiting for his master to return from a journey. The master is returning; of this he is sure. He doesn’t know when that return will be. He may return in ten minutes, having forgotten his briefcase. He may return in a year, having successfully concluded his business. Either way, the master is returning. Is the doorman supposed to try to figure out when the master will come back? No. The doorman is standing at his post, ready for the master to come back at any time. It’s enough for the doorman to believe the master when he says he will come back. He stands his post. He does the job the master has selected him to do. He does not shirk his responsibility. He doesn’t earn a special reward for doing what he’s supposed to do; but if he abandons his post, if he shirks his responsibility, he will surely be in trouble when the master returns and finds the door locked with the doorkeeper asleep or away from his post.

This preparation sounds like an awful burden. And it is. Jesus died bearing it for you. He came in humility, came as a servant. He came as a sacrifice, bearing our sins to the cross. He has clothed you in righteousness through the Word in the water in Holy Baptism. Through that Baptism, Christ will recognize you as His own. Do not doubt that for an instant. His saving work has been applied to you.

How you prepare to receive Christ as He comes to you in glory on the Last Day is the same way you prepare to receive Christ as He comes to you in His body and blood in the Holy Supper. Luther tells us concerning the worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared.” Jesus has done the hard part. Now all we have to do is cling to the words and promises of Jesus by faith. And even that faith is a gift of God! It’s no burden for us to praise Christ as the Son of Man, God in the flesh, the one who shall return in glory to judge both the living and the dead. We’re even given the words to pray in Holy Scripture, which the Church has been blessed to pray in the Divine Service, as we do this morning.

Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” The signs are all around us. The end is near! For those who do not believe, it will be a dark day. They will have been found sleeping on duty. They will know in that moment that Christ is the Lord, and they will despair, for they will realize that they have earned the reward for faithlessness. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” And we, through the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, respond, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Do not doubt this for a moment: He is coming soon! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hymn: Lord Jesus, We Confess Your Name

When I was in school, no matter the level, I was always better at working on assigned topics than I was at picking a topic and running with it. With this in mind I decided to seek suggestions for a hymn topic. I received a number of wonderful offerings from those I polled. This suggestion was offered by Jenny Jordan, a friend of my wife, who said she would like to see a hymn about great confessions of faith. As I said in a recent post, I have no plans to stop writing hymns any time soon, and I'm somewhat pleased with how this one turned out.

The following is my humble offering.

Lord Jesus, We Confess Your Name

1. Lord Jesus, we confess Your name.
From age to age, You're still the same.
With prophets and apostles blest
Who, with great boldness, have professed
Your holy name, Lord, grant that we
Adore You, Christ, on bended knee.

2. "Behold, the Lamb of God," John said,
Who to the wilderness was led,
Who in his mother's womb did spring
To mark the presence of his King.
With him, who knew he must decrease,
May our confession never cease.

3. We praise Your name with Peter, Lord,
Who, through the Father, spoke the Word,
Proclaiming you the promised One:
"You are the Christ, Lord, God's own Son."
Build up Your Church on this brave creed,
That we may rest on You, indeed.

4. Saint Stephen, now in heaven's band,
Who saw you there at God's right hand,
Stood trial for trusting You alone.
He called to You while being stoned,
Confessing you with his last breath.
May we, with him, hold You in death.

5. With angel and archangel host,
We praise You, Christ, in whom we boast,
Our Lord, our God, our Prince of Peace,
Whose blood our bondage won release.
Lord, keep us steadfast all our days,
That evermore Your name we raise.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.
88 88 88

We will never forget you, Gail.

I came across this picture on the Facebook page of a friend and former parishioner. It's the headstone for one of Molly's namesakes. We named Molly Abigail for two beautiful women from our congregation in Ohio who fought valiantly against cancer and who now rest in the arms of their Savior.

The first was Molly Abella, who was a beautiful young in her late twenties. She died about three months before we left Zanesville. When we were discussing baby names, we had the darnedest time agreeing on boy names, but at the same moment we both said, "Molly," and we knew it was right. Looking at our Molly now, a lot of the things that made Molly Abella beautiful are the same things that make our own Molly a treasure: her spirit, her joy, even her beautiful long hair with its unruly curls.

Gail Szczesny is the other woman for whom we named Molly. We added the "Abi" part, but she's named for Gail nonetheless.

Gail and her husband Bob are the grandparents to three of the kids who were regulars in my youth group in Ohio and the daughter and son-in-law of one of my shut-ins. The Szczesny's always welcomed me into their home and showed me a great deal of love. They and their children also welcomed Faith more warmly than pretty much anyone else in the congregation I served in Ohio. They and their children were among the very few members of the congregation to contact us after my resignation was announced with any kind of warmth. Bob and Gail invited us to visit them in their home, where they fed us and loved us and cried with us. Their daughter Sandra and her husband Mike took us out to lunch and brought us gifts for the as-yet-unborn twins, and while I don't know if Faith knows it, Mike is one of the men I wanted to honor by giving our son the name Michael. Another daughter, Jana, and her husband Bob and their children still keep in touch with us today.

Gail was a lovely older woman who had fought cancer for a long time. It had gone into remission, but when she relapsed it took a heavy toll. She died in 2006, about eight months after we moved to Louisiana. She's buried about an hour from where my parents live in western New York.

Thank you, Lord, for families like the Szczesny family and their children and grandchildren. Thank you for making them a part of our family and our lives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When in our music God is glorified . . .

I'm a somewhat different creature when I'm in the pew as opposed to when I'm in the pulpit. I guess it's only natural. After all, in the pulpit I'm delivering, while in the pew I'm receiving. So while I'm a trained theologian no matter where I am, what I notice and what I do and how I react . . . these things change when I'm in the pew.

One of the things that struck me as I sat in a pew at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, Louisiana, on the Feast of All Saints is the tremendous richness of the hymnody of the Church. As you may have noticed, I've put pen to paper in an attempt to write some hymns. Some are better than others, of course. But when I look at the hymnody which the Church has been blessed with over the past two-thousand years and more, it's not hard to see that I've got a long way to go.

This was made very plain to me as I attempted to write a Christmas hymn. I did manage to put together a hymn called "When All Was Still at Midnight's Hour", which is based on the Introit for the Eve of the Nativity of our Lord. This is a beautiful verse which comes from the Apocrypha, namely Wisdom 18:14-15.
When all was still, and it was midnight,
Thy almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne.

The verses I wrote based on this were adequate. Maybe. But when compared to the rich hymns of Christmas, especially "Of the Father's Love Begotten", it's a trifle. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing hymns. I thank God that I'm no longer writing trite love poems, and I see this joy in writing hymns as a blessing. I don't know if I'll ever write anything as profound as Franzmann's "Thy Strong Word", but maybe I can at least match a "Love in Christ Is Strong and Living".

I may post "When All Was Still at Midnight's Hour" one of these days. I certainly don't expect it to move heaven and earth, but it glorifies God, and I'm pleased how my prayer life has been enriched even with these poor verses.

In the meantime, my attempts at writing hymns will continue to give me a greater appreciation for the richness and wonder of the hymnody with which we have been blessed throughout the history of the Church. May we all enjoy the rich treasures of the hymnal.

Monday, November 09, 2009

God in the midst of calamity

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
--Romans 8:28

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Twelve years ago today, I was in a major two-vehicle accident. I was twenty-two years old. Around 6 PM, I was in my (beautiful) 1987 Buick LeSabre, on my way back home from my field work church after worship and an afternoon of every-member visitation. I turned onto Townline Road in Wheatfield (I believe). That's all I remember. I don't remember driving down Townline. I don't remember coming up to another intersection. I don't remember being broadsided by a pick-up truck. I have brief flashes of being in the ambulance and humming hymns and praying. (It's good to know what you fall back on in times of greatest need.) I remember seeing my parents as I was wheeled into the ER, and I definitely remember puking on the shoes of the doctor who was about to run some sort of scan.

I was told that I ran a stop sign. I don't remember that happening, and I can't imagine that I would run a stop sign on a road I traveled constantly, but that's what the police report and the newspaper article said. Every so often I will get a flash of what might have happened, but I don't know if those are memories or if they are constructs of a mind that spends too much time trying to figure out every damn mistake I've ever made and how I might have avoided it if I'd been smarter, cleverer, less clumsy, whatever. The images I see in my mind are of my car and the other vehicle, but since I didn't have those images in my mind until after I saw the pictures my father took of the vehicles after the accident, there's no guarantee that what I see is a true image.

No one in the truck was seriously injured, and neither was I. I had cuts from the windshield glass breaking. I had major bruising on my torso from the seat belt. I had a bump on the right side of my head, possibly from hitting the steering wheel, which was so big that we couldn't see my right ear. My mother couldn't look at me without crying (though many women had that kind of reaction to me at that point, I think), so we never did get any pictures of my face. But I was fine after about a week.

As I've said before, my life changed after that accident. My grades in seminary to that point had been, at best, average, and that year had been so miserable that I'd considered dropping out altogether. The accident sharpened my focus and priorities. That's not to say I became a model student, but I cared more after that about academics and less about what happened at the ping pong table. I still slide back from time to time, but I'm not as . . . I can't say "wild" because I've never been wild--I'm too inhibited for that--but maybe I'm less distracted than I was. I didn't lose my naivety--that came later in Ohio--but I think I finally became an adult.

I was also pointedly reminded of the goodness of God that day. Though this was a high speed collision, nobody was seriously injured. My car was totaled, but I didn't have a passenger in my car as I had for much of the day. A passenger would almost certainly have been killed on impact. So much of what happened could have been so much worse, and it is only by the grace of God that it wasn't worse. I usually don't make a big deal about guardian angels, since people like Oprah tend to hijack the concept and make everyone who does a good deed an angel. But I can't deny that God set mine to watch over me, and I cannot deny the diligence of that heavenly being on that day. God is good.

Anyway, here are the pictures. Above is the picture of the outside of my car. She was nearly spotless before the accident. Beautiful car, a joy to drive. I still miss her.

This is the view from the window on the passenger side of my car, looking at the driver side. It doesn't look too bad, really, all things considered. It probably wasn't very hard to remove me from the car after the accident, as my legs came through with only minor cuts and abrasions, and the door doesn't even look like it was hard to open.

This is the view from the window on the driver side of my car, looking at the passenger side. Note how much of the passenger seat is showing. Any passenger would almost certainly have had crushed legs; likely, any passenger would have been killed on impact. I thank God constantly that the accident didn't happen an hour earlier when I had a passenger with me.

And this is the other vehicle.