There once was a flight with a young boy.There once was a flight with a young boy. He seemed to be full of life and glee in a way that seems to be drained out of you and me. As we started out he yelled 'we are flying whheeeeeee!' As we landed he exclaimed 'that was he best ride EVER!'. Everyone laughed and smiled. It may have been the best ride ever.
We who fly frequently are hardened by the routine. We are harried by life and wondering if all that solitary time will allow us to get thework we need to do done. Before the advent of the easily portable electronic devices I would make friends on airplanes. Once upon a time I connected with a young mom enough to get a babysitting gig. I recall getting to know a lobbyist for the Childrens Defense Fund, and looking back it was the first time I heard the name Hillary Clinton. Now we barely exchange pleasantries. Or at least I do. Maybe you are more gallant than I.
I travel often enough to have my routine down. Headphones, snacks, Sudafed, beverage. The pleasure of that lightness of being of a smooth and uncrowded flight. The relief of a row to yourself when you are a million times tired. I find myself wondering if this is one of the last places where we arrange ourselves in rows and sit for hours at a time.
There is something amazing and startling about this time together. I wonder if this time apart, this lightness of being is what people seek from worship. The strangers who stumble into our gatherings, who desire that tingle of skin that intimacy of strangers that the experience of religion can be. If you have never flown before then those instructions are jaw dropping and they rattle on to quickly. A lifelong flyer and Episcopalian I can only imagine how unsettling it can be to be new in each setting.
Now though, hardly a person looks up at the flight attendant as he or she rattles off the routine statements about seat-belts and cabin pressure. The protests from the associations seem well founded. I myself could recite the statements as blindly as the Nicene creed. I know all about seat cushions and the likelienss of survival from any wretched occurance. However, as someone who steps into a pulpit, as someone who has something to say, I feel a commitment to pull off my headphones and watch. I will confess to not paying complete attention, but I watch. Proclaiming with no one looking at you is dreadful. I once was in a pulpit with a rather good sermon and there was this couple in front, who might as well been watching their pedicures dry. When they did look up they seemed to be the most bored people on the planet. It can undo your confidence, it can bring the curtain down on all the things you were full of life to say. We preach rules of travel and so do these servants of the airborne road. So I pull off my headphones and ignore my tablet and I look up.
Proverbs 5.13 I didn't listen to the voice of my instructor. I didn't obey my teacher.
I look at the person speaking if I can see them. I look like a listener and I try to be a listener. At every moment of the flight, we are in the hands of their service. It isn't a perfect service, however neither is mine. I love the wacky videos some airlines are producing, but we shouldn't need that level of circus to grab our attention. Life and wellness and a smooth flight are at stake. All over the place the church is trying circus acts like the 80`s safety video. We don't not seem to heed the still strong voice of our instructor, we daydream of stardom when all he wants from us is love. What can we do to get folks to look up, to listen, to follow in turbulent air? Should we be so flustered? I know that many people learn better when their hands are busy and their eyes are not stuck in one place.
Yet there is that magic, that holiness of connection that happens with a look or a touch. It is hard to concede but if we lose the humanness of our life together we will lose the truth of the incarnation. He looks us in the eye, holds our hands, listens to our grief, heals our ills. Let this be a lesson learned, look up. Your beloved is speaking.