Oh, what peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Do Not Worry
Well, that was an interesting afternoon. I was on a plane last week and halfway through the flight, the pilot announced we were turning around. We’d be making an emergency landing at an airport with a really big runway because there was some problem with steering. Knowing nothing about aviation, I thought: “Well, a problem with steering sounds better to me than a problem with brakes. Maybe.”
We had about 20 minutes left in the flight, which ended with a smooth landing, welcomed by a few fire trucks. While the flight attendants did demonstrate how we should brace for impact, for whatever reason, I sensed this was just a matter of the airline being extra careful. Most folks on the flight seemed pretty chill. But it did give me a glimmer of what it might be like to face serious problems on a plane. What would I think about? How might I react if I really believed as I often say in a blessing, “Life is short.” It made me think of stories I’ve heard from folks who survived greater emergencies and found in those moments the peace that passes understanding.
Recently I served on a panel with a gentleman who lived in Hawaii. He told the story of that Saturday morning when the alert went out about an impending missile aimed at Oahu. I had insufficiently considered how scary that must have been. His apartment had a view of Pearl Harbor and he imagined he would be ground zero. He had two daughters. Each responded differently. One hid in the bathroom. The other said: “Dad, let’s go out on the balcony and watch the show.” I was struck with the way he talked about those 38 minutes. While in his place, I might have panicked, I got no senses that that was his experience.
A priest I know has a parishioner who was on the plane Sully landed in the Hudson a few years ago. That parishioner imagined he was living the last minutes of his life. He said he felt deep peace. My friend, the rector, said his goal was to lead a church where members are so deeply formed in faith that they will know such peace in such moments.
Another person I admire dashed to a plane upon learning that a child had had a terrible accident in another part of the country. She did not know what she would find at the hospital after the plane landed. She described being upheld on that plane ride by that sense of deep peace.
Each of these incidents came to mind as I scanned readings from Luke for this week (especially on Tuesday). Jesus teaches his disciples in a variety of ways, inviting them into a new way of life. One of the features of that new life: It will be marked by a sense of peace. In a world marked by fear and scarcity thinking, Jesus invited disciples to trust, following him on a pathway not shielded from suffering, but not undone by suffering. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.
That new way of life is an excellent focus for Lent. Folks often think Lent is a matter of being more miserable than thou, a downer of a season that describes us as wretched, whether we feel wretched or not. The word “Lent” actually comes from an ancient word for Spring. The season asks us to think about how new life might unfold, free (or at least freer) from anxiety.
Jesus says: Don’t worry about your life. Perhaps easier said than done. It’s possible, though, it seems to me, if we can deepen our trust. For followers of Jesus, that means focus, striving first for the Kingdom of God, keeping things in perspective. That, in turn, probably means prayer, which in Anne Lamott’s vision can be as simple as three words: Thanks. Help. Wow. Luke’s gospel has Jesus constantly heading off by himself to pray. I wonder if that was the key to the calm with which he navigated opposition, rejection, ridicule, misunderstanding, betrayal, persecution, torture, suffering. I wonder if that could be an antidote to anxiety for you and me, as we live in anxious times.
The old hymn observes: Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. Today, this morning, do we needlessly forfeit peace? May you know deep peace today.
Good Book Club readings this week:
Monday, March 5: Luke 12:1-21
Tuesday, March 6: Luke 12:22-59
Wednesday, March 7: Luke 13:1-21
Thursday, March 8: Luke 13:22-35
Friday, March 9: Luke 14:1-24
Saturday, March 10: Luke 14:25-35
Sunday, March 11: Luke 15:1-10
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