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A WING and a PRAYER
A Message of Faith and Hope
By Katharine Jefferts Schori
Church Publishing IncorporatedCopyright © 2007Katharine Jefferts Schori
All rights reserved.
One Body, Many Members
I spend a lot of time on airplanes, and I'm struck by how many different people are needed to put one of those big planes in the air. Think about the journey from beginning to end. We encounter ticket agents and reservations people, either the ones at our local travel agent or the folks who write the Internet programs, as well as the folks who check us in at the airport. There are the people who design the ticket forms and figure out how to price the seats—and we all know that travelers probably pay thirteen different prices for the same trip. There are baggage handlers: at the curb, in the terminal, and the ones we never see who load the bags into the cargo hold. There are scores of mechanics working to keep planes flying safely. What about the people who clean the airplane, so we don't have to sit in a seat full of somebody else's banana peels and old newspapers? There are kitchen workers, menu planners, the farmers who grow the food that's served, people who run the factories that put soda and juice in cans, and truck drivers and delivery people who get all that stuff to the right airplane at the right time.
And then there are the people we are used to seeing—the flight attendants, pilots, and navigators. If you take a window seat you may be aware of some of the ground crew—the folks who direct traffic on the ground with flags and lights, showing the pilot which gate to enter, or the flight controllers in the tower.
There are some other people we rarely think about—the FAA inspectors who keep flying safer than driving to the airport; the legislators who help to ensure that the system has oversight and funding; and then the people who run the airlines—managers, CEOs, the investors who fund the purchase of new aircraft, and the other passengers who help to provide a market. After all, those planes don't fly just for us!
Think of even deeper levels: the titanium miners and aluminum smelters and petroleum refiners and construction engineers, even interior decorators. Somebody designed those little reading lights that never seem to shine in the right place to light your book. What about the utility workers who provide the water and energy to run all the networks and systems that it takes to go from the first conception of a new airplane to getting that bird into the sky? Every single one of them is an essential part of our hop from Portland or Eugene to Denver or New York or Tokyo.
Scientists are teaching us that everything in the universe is connected, not just complex human and mechanical systems. A remarkable experiment a number of years ago showed this in a new way. If you take a pair of electrons with opposite spins, and send them off in different directions, and then change the spin of one of them, the spin of the other also changes—instantaneously. We're beginning to understand that everything in the universe is connected, even at the most elemental level.
We've begun to see this on a global scale as we notice that the average temperature is going up and the weather is changing—here, in Australia, and in northern Europe. The permafrost in the Yukon is melting. Sea level is gradually increasing as the ice cover at the poles begins to melt faster than it's deposited as snow. Islands in the South Pacific are slowly disappearing—some inhabited islands will be under water before too many more decades go by if the global climate change continues.
Paul makes this point emphatically when he says that the Body of Christ has lots of different parts, all vital to the health of the body. Which part is extraneous? Can we do without the foot, or the ear, or the eye? We are the Body of Christ—is there anybody here we don't need? Anyone we can do without? Who's extraneous?
The world is inclined to say that we don't need the homeless, or immigrants, or people of different ethnic backgrounds. Until fairly recently our society ignored handicapped people and the mentally ill—we shut them away so we wouldn't have to see and live with them. But Jesus speaks to those very people in the synagogue—the blind, the poor, and those in prison. They are the ones he honors.
What is it about human nature that wants to ignore some kinds of people?
What or who tells us we don't need those people? I don't know about your experience, but I've been in some environments where that kind of thinking comes pretty easily. The cattle car called a commercial airplane is one of them. I don't want to be connected at the elbow or hip to the person in the next seat. I don't want to hear the crying baby in the next row all the way across the country. I don't want to stand in line for what feels like hours until they call my row for boarding. I don't want to remember that all of the folks crowding into the airport are part of the system that makes air travel affordable and relatively convenient. What do all these strangers have to do with me? But I need every single one of them, even and maybe especially when I find that hard to remember.
Each one of us is connected to the people enduring civil war in the Congo, Sudan, and the Holy Land, to the victims of earthquake in El Salvador, to the homeless individuals and families along the railroad tracks and under the bridges of Corvallis and New York. There is no one that "we have no need of."
When Jesus stood in that synagogue and read words of hope and deliverance, he inaugurated a new government—a government of and by and for those whom others think disposable. This reign of God is a way of living that is most concerned with the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. They get top priority.
Our role in government, too, begins with our neighbor. Our task as citizens of the the world and of the reign of God is to keep asking, "Who is the focus of this earthly government? Who receives the greatest concern—those who are poor, or those who have never been poor? Those in prison or those who have never been in prison?"
The governing principles of God's reign aren't designed to make any of us particularly comfortable. When we think about the poor, captives, blind, and oppressed, do we know they have need of us? All are members of the body of God's creation, all have need of one another. Sometimes even those occasions when we feel most cut off can be reminders of our connectedness. A few years ago I sat on a small plane going from Miami to Orlando, behind a woman of about forty and a little girl of about two. As their story unfolded during the journey, I learned that this beautiful child was coming from Central America with her adoptive mother-to-be. The woman's husband and older daughter were waiting in Orlando to meet the newest member of their family. The world grew smaller and connections came closer in that act of deliverance. An orphan found a home, and a captive was set free to discover the riches of a family's love. It was an act of love that didn't make any economic sense. It was an act that noticed and cherished one of the least of God's creatures in this hemisphere.
Is there anyone we feel we have no need of? A good spiritual exercise might be to figure out where and how we can reach out to someone we would rather ignore. Each of those acts inaugurates the reign of God yet again. Every one of those acts can proclaim, as Jesus did, "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Today we are sent to bring good news to the poor, to release the captives, to heal the blind, to let the oppressed go free, so that together we may proclaim the year of God's favor.CHAPTER 2
Tending the Wounded Body of Christ
Let's think about where we've come from. Each one of us
Excerpted from A WING and a PRAYER by Katharine Jefferts Schori. Copyright © 2007 by Katharine Jefferts Schori. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
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