Terrifying Silence: NASCAR edition

Let us pause and consider the Transfiguration within it’s scriptural context.

After Jesus’ infamous ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which intensified the law and declared himself as the fulfilment, he asks his inner-most circle of disciples ‘who do you say I am’.

Simeon Peter answers ‘the Christ, the Son of God’.
Thus, Peter is given the ‘keys’ to heaven and called the ‘rock upon which the church is built’.

Jesus continues sharing with these disciples his betrayal, arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death to come. Peter takes Jesus to the side and says ‘don’t talk like that’. Jesus rebukes Peter and continues to teach this sorrowful truth.

Jesus, Peter, James, and John are on the mountain top six days later.
Jesus is transfigured.
Jesus is with Moses and Elijah.
Jesus is truly the embodiment and fulfillment of the law AND the prophets.

Although the disciples have experienced the supernatural before, I imagine that Jesus literally glowing and standing with two deceased legends of Judaism would have been unusual, uncomfortable, and perhaps disconcerting. I envision the disciples stunned, standing in silence because Peter (who can be as dense as a rock) opens his mouth and inserts his foot again: “It is good for us to be here. We should…”

But, before Peter can finish, a disembodied voice attributed to God basically booms forth “Be Quiet. LISTEN.” The disciples fall to the ground terrified.

We, like Peter, can be as dense as rocks.
We, like the disciples, are not comfortable with silence.
We, like Peter, open our mouths and insert foot to fill the silence;
thus, we tend to listen to respond not to understand.

This silence can be terrifying.

Our discomfort with silence and simply how terrifying it can be became all too real on Monday evening for the NASCAR community.

But, lets rewind for a moment.

During the 2001 Daytona 500, the legend Dale Earnhardt Sr died in a crash on the final lap.

In 2002, we begun to watch NASCAR.

I choose the veteran Bill Elliott.

Amanda (my sister) choose the rookie Jimmie Johnson.

My mama choose South Bend raised, Purdue graduate, Hoosier, rookie…
Ryan Newman.

The 2020 Daytona 500 was on Monday evening.
It ended with a significant crash on the final lap, reminiscent of Dale Sr.

While seeking information from the broadcast and social media, I was yelling at the commentators who were simply fulfilling their vocation…. filling the silence.
But, I could not have cared less about Denny Hamlin and competitors.

Although NASCAR has become accustom to the competitors climbing from their cars after specular incidents, Ryan Newman did not and his crew ran to his car arriving only seconds after the emergency medical staff.

Newman remained in his car for 29 minutes during the rescue efforts.

These 29 minutes of silence were made worse when the media was evacuated from the scene and pit row.

These 29 minutes of silence were made worse when black screens were used to prevent spectators and media from viewing the scene and rescue efforts.

All feared the worse. Silence can be terrifying.

After these 29 minutes, the NASCAR community witnessed the lights and sirens of the ambulance with Newman in route to the local hospital.

The NASCAR community gathered at the hospital, on social media, and around their televisions with kind words, shared concerns, thoughts, and prayers filling the silence for two hours until a statement:

“Ryan Newman is in serious condition but doctors indicate it is not life-threatening”.

Although assured that Newman had survived, the silence remained terrifying because there was no information about the extent of his injuries and condition. Thus, the uncomfortable silence continued to weigh down the NASCAR community in mind, body, and soul.

It was nearly 24 hours after the accident when we learned, Krissie (his wife), had not been at the Daytona 500 and was flown in to make decisions. But now, Newman was awake and communicating with his family and medical staff.

It was nearly 36 hours after the accident that a photograph was released of Newman standing with his two daughters and a statement that he was fully alert, walking, and true to his nature joking with his family, friends, and medical staff.

Within mere hours, less than 48 hours after the accident, Newman was released from the hospital, walking under his own power, and holding hands with his daughters.

Within these 48 hours, the NASCAR community was reminded that despite the safety advances, including one bearing Newman’s name, racing remains dangerous AND the silence of the unknown is terrifying.

Jesus’ disciples were on the ground terrified, when Jesus after seconds, minutes, or hours, comforted them with a touch and said ‘get up and do not be afraid’.

Marietta Madeleine Anschutz (Commentary: Feasting on the Word) wrote:

“The moment of the transfiguration is that point at which God says to the world and to each of us that there is nothing we can do to prepare for or stand in the way of joy or sorrow, we cannot build God a monument, and we cannot keep God safe. We also cannot escape the light that God will shed on our path. We cannot escape God, Immanuel among us. God will find us in our homes and in our working places. God will find us when our hearts are broken and when we discover joy. God will find us when we run away from God and when we are sitting in the middle of what seems like hell. So “get up and do not be afraid”.”

In recent days, a photograph of another NASCAR driver named Corey LaJoie has surfaced. LaJoie was involved in the incident when Newman’s up-side down, airborne car landed unavoidably in front of his own. LaJoie made contact on Newman’s driver side near the ‘door’.

The picture is of Lajoie knelt on the Daytona track next to his car.
The picture was speculated to be LaJoie praying for Newman, but it is not.

LaJoie was confused, did not know who he hit, and was in pain; however, before getting up he sent a prayer of thanksgiving for his own safety. LaJoie did not know until later that he hit Newman or the situation.

Despite the sorrows within our lives.
Despite the terrifying experiences and silences.
God is present.

As posted on Facebook, Madeleine L. Engle is quoted:

“God doesn’t stop the bad things from happening;
that’s never been part of the promise.
The promise is: I am with you. I am with you now until the end of time.”

May we embrace and be reminded that the promise is:
God is present,

in the noise and the silence,
in the security and in the fear,
in joys and sorrows.

May we give thanks for and be confident in that promise.

May we “get up and not be afraid”.



Scripture was Matthew 17: 1-9.
Originally preached on 23 Feb. 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s