The fast pace of life slowed down just enough to enjoy the Easter season. The culmination of the season is our “love feast” at church. We have an Easter feast with each of us cooking Jewish dishes and then bringing them to church and having them put on the tables in 5 different serving dishes so we can all sit down and eat together at the same time verses standing in a buffet line. This year the dishes had a “bon appetite” touch as we captured the spirit of the Seder as freemen in Christ lounging around a delicious meal. We had assembled thrift store china and glasses to add some elegance to the meal and the three cups of blessing.
We had showed a film “messiah”, about a disciple returning home for the Seder with his family that highlights Christ in the Passover. I had re-read “Christ in the Passover” and did one Sunday school specifically on it. I had re-read “The Blood Covenant” by Trumbell and had included his thinking into my sermons as we got closer to the day. We didn’t watch “James Tembo, Detective” but Timothy Zulu is always on my mind at this time of year. I had a sermon idea for Sunday morning that I thought was pretty straight forward. I would read Jesus’ last address to His disciples at the last supper in Jn. 13 – 17 and pick out three themes for my three points. A little easy since I already knew the themes I would pick: Holy Spirit, Love and (blood covenant) the idea of being one with God.
I read and re-read the chapters about 7 times and found myself wrestling with God over some bible verses I had wrestled over many times in the past. Here they are in abbreviated form: John 14:14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 15:7 you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:16 that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you John 16:23 whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. John 16:24 Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
I make a statement about Christianity that goes something like this: If Christianity was the religion in which all of our prayers are automatically answered the whole world would be Christian. Instead we have God as the “unjust judge” who doesn’t answer our prayers as we see fit.
I am aware of how commentators maneuver around these verses and any honest Christian must wrestle with these verses as they read them. I was trying to get a sermon ready but couldn’t get off the mat. I ended up preaching as I have written describing my struggle as we went over John 13 – 17 more as a Sunday school teaching than a sermon. So I began to ponder, looked up some commentaries (most run away from the starkness of the statements) and tried to find someone in the web world who had wrestled as I was now wrestling.
It was 9:30 on Tuesday morning April 22. Dorothy Hargis was driving to Belleville north on Highway 4 just south of Mascoutah. From the south came a car that had just raced through town with a couple of young men. They slid off the side of the road and overcorrected and came back into the opposite lane and a head on collision with 77 year old Dorothy.
Before I saw her that night her daughter Deena gave me the hard facts. The left femur had been broken and jammed up into the hip socket, the left elbow shattered, right heel shattered, bleeding in the brain, liver and spleen. She then told me that Dorothy’s chances of survival would diminish 10% with each broken rib. Seven broken ribs on her left side with multiple fractures and three on her left. The fracturing of the ribs was part of protecting the now deeply bruised and collapsing lungs. As they prepared for some surgeries to stop the bleeding they would discover small fractures in her upper vertebrae at the neck. We were prepared for the worst.
There she was, little Dorothy, all bundled up with tubes running everywhere. She wanted to talk and she thanked God that her best friend Mary Lou had not accompanied her. She was worried about her daughter and grandchildren, her cats and the mowing of her grass. She complained of pain on her left side but she oozed out life giving God glory. My wrestles would cease as we prayed and enjoyed the presence of God in that little hospital room.
Some crucial medical decisions were made concerning her surgeries with one of them being putting in a tracheotomy before letting her exhaust herself trying to breathe. The bleeding in the brain would stop with no attending swelling. The bleeding in the internal organs would be stopped without any need of further surgeries. We would see her again on Thursday night after six hours of surgery to correct the damage to her left hip. She couldn’t talk but wanted us to do our best to read her lips. Her daughter Deena was doing better but still carrying a mighty load. That had been my Wed. verse for the sermon: Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden. I shared the points of the sermon with Dorothy and we prayed and I came away blessed with God’s presence in her life. We prayed for Deena before leaving that night as we had Tuesday night.
People from church have been making the hour drive into Saint Louis to see her and Maida gave everyone this text: “You will come away feeling better. If you ever saw the scripture: His strength is made perfect in our weakness…you will see it at work in Dorothy. You can feel His presence in her room.” She sums up what we are all feeling as we visit with Dorothy. The doctors are not trying to give us false hopes, and the final outcome does not look good from a medical standpoint but even the doctors are giving us small words of encouragement as they watch Dorothy respond to the operations and the situation. We thank you for your prayers.