Dear Friends of Second Church,
Are you following the sudden rash of airplanes being grounded because travelers are fighting over the right to lean back their seats?
That’s right. Not only are people fighting over the right to lean back their seats to the point that flight attendants are getting involved–they’re fighting over this to the point that pilots have started diverting entire planes.
Apparently, there is now a device you can purchase to prevent — physically prevent — the passenger in front of you from being able to lean back his or her chair. But this has caused only one of the recent groundings. The others are from plain, old fashioned disagreements.
Is it just me, or do you read stories like this and wonder how, on earth, it could possibly have come to this?
Compared to many in our congregation, I travel rarely. Maybe some of you saw that special gizmo in “The Sharper Image” catalogue or some other place and thought, “A-ha, my traveling problems are solved at last!”
But speaking for myself: I cannot imagine how I would respond to the news from the cockpit that our flight was being landed in some in between place because two grown adults could not handle a disagreement about their chairs. And I cannot imagine how much worse I would feel had I been responsible for such an event.
Call me an optimist, but I like to imagine that the shouting stopped and the loud, profuse apologizing began.
One of the great challenges of our times, I think, is not only discerning right from wrong; it’s also discerning what matters from what does not. I cannot say why this seems to have gotten harder than it used to be. Life’s little aggravations aren’t supposed to undo us in this way. It’s sad to see how easily we give in to impulses that seem beneath us.
Worse yet, events like these suggest that maybe we don’t see others, literally and figuratively, as fellow travelers in the way we once did.
That’s why community, in all its complexity, is so important for us. It reminds us that the world is something that we share, that few of our claims on it are absolute, and that most of the time, if we work together, we can get all get where we’re trying to go.
Whether it’s the community of an airplane cabin, a neighborhood, a book group, an office, or a home, our life together that reminds us, simultaneously, that who we are as individuals is supremely important, and also that each of us is only a small part of something far larger.
I hope that as our church begins a new program year, you will find ways to explore how God is calling you, specifically, to invest your time and energy. And I hope you’ll have moments when you feel the beating heart of something greater than you, or any one of us. I hope that I do, too.
When that happens, then, sort of like they say on the airlines, “wherever it is your travels may lead you,” you might just find the peace that passes all understanding.
See you in church,