Missing Minneapolis – or Worse: Why Jesus tells us to be alert
Did you hear about Northwest Airlines flight 188 and how it overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles Wednesday evening? The flight from San Diego was supposed to land in Minneapolis around 8:00 p.m., but the pilots apparently were so embroiled in an argument about company policies that they were half way across Wisconsin before they realized where they were. Neither the lights of the Twin Cities glittering 37,000 feet below nor the frantic calls of the air traffic controllers could pry their attention away from their “heated discussion.” They were over Eau Claire before they figured what they’d done and set a new course back to where they were supposed be in the first place.
Of course those of us who fly in and out of Philadelphia know about being sent half way across the Atlantic before we turn around and land at PHL, but they call that a holding pattern.
Most of us are in the passenger cabin when we fly. We expect the men and women in the cockpit to be keeping track of Minneapolis and Eau Claire and making sure we land when and where we’re supposed to land. It’s not our job to be alert – just to keep our seat belt fastened securely until we come to a full and complete stop at the gate.
As I was thinking about flight 188, I thought about the church. Maybe there are some similarities. In a way, pastors and elders are like the crew in the cockpit. It’s their job to get the church where it’s supposed to go. But too often we get distracted by disagreements over “company policy” and we miss Minneapolis altogether. Isn’t our endless Presbyterian debate about human sexuality a bit like that? While we spend thousands of hours and dollars debating ways to obscure the clear message of scripture, Minneapolis passes slowly below; men and women, children and youth who need to know the love and compassion, the peace and the justice of the living God passing slowly by below.
But when Jesus told his followers to be alert, he was talking to all of us, not just our leaders. To be sure, this passage in Mark 13 is eschatological. It is about the end of time. But it is also about the lives we live here and now, lives into which Jesus continues to come; it is about our world, a world into which Jesus continues to come. At the end Jesus will come to make all things new. Heaven and earth will pass away to be superseded by a new heaven and a new earth. But in the meantime Jesus comes into human hearts making new creations one by one. He comes among us in our here and now world making communities of light in the darkness.
So, maybe it is that the church, you and I, have been assigned cockpit duty and the world around us is back in the cabin, blithely munching peanuts, listening to their i-pods, trying to doze or worrying about tomorrow’s meeting or the sick family member they are going to visit, the strained relationship they are going to repair – or to end. It’s our job to be certain we get where we’re supposed to be – to Minneapolis instead of Eau Claire, to Jesus instead of to a cliquish club no one would want to be a part of anyway, to worship of the living God instead of a rote routine, to serving others in the name of the One who came to redeem the whole world instead of self-concerned protection of our place in a decaying world order.
“Be alert,” Jesus tells us. It’s pretty bad to miss Minneapolis. Much worse to miss the Kingdom.
Praying for the Phillies
The question came up in last evening’s Bible study. May we, should we pray for a Phillies’ win in the World Series? Speaking of an entirely different matter, the Apostle Paul told his friends in Corinth that he would offer only his opinion since he had no command from the Lord on the subject (1 Corinthians 7:25). Well, in the spirit of the Apostle, I offer only an opinion and will borrow another line from 1 Corinthians and, again, wildly out of context: …whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (10:31).
So, to the players, coaches and managers who know our glorious God through the gift of the Beloved Son Jesus: whatever you do – how you coach and play, how you celebrate and in the interviews you give – do it all for the glory of God. To the fans and the partisans who claim highest allegiance to Christ and his ways: whatever you do – how you cheer and celebrate a win or mourn a loss (just hypothetically speaking) – do it all for the glory of God.
By the way, I’m slightly serious about all this. If Jesus is Lord over all our lives, he is Lord over our lives as Philly fans, and it ought to show.