Thursday 1 December 2022
To Where Will God Call Us,
Again Where We Cannot See The Destination
… then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.
… giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Grace For Today
The verses for today are consequences of or endings to previous events.
The first is Jacob’s call to his people to go up to Bethel to build an altar to God, to give God thanks for answering him in his distress and for accompanying him wherever he has gone.
The second is the writer of Ephesians calling to the 2nd century Christians to be constantly giving God thanks in Jesus name for everything.
This past Monday CBC Ideas ran a segment by Neil Sandell about Ernest Gann’s memoir, Fate is the Hunter. Sandell highlighted the two threads in Gann’s book: the deadly risks of early aviation (that are still present in bush flying in the north and in many parts of the world), and the capriciousness of fate as some pilots survive inevitable accidents and seemingly certain death while others, even more skilled pilots, die in similar accidents.
An Adventure in Reality.
This Advent we have the A cycle of lessons, mostly from Matthew, and on the 2nd Sunday of Advent (this upcoming Sunday) we have Matthew’s version of John the Baptist calling people to a baptism of repentance in the Jordan. Wild John the Baptist got many people’s attention, and many came, even religious leaders, scoping out John, hedging their bets for God’s favour.
We are so used to Advent, well some of us are, and it’s calls to be alert, stay awake, cleanse our hearts, minds, and whole lives with repentance … each year pretty much the same. We usually blithely hear, celebrate the coming Christmas season with parties, gift buying and wrapping, and baking and cooking for huge meals.
Each Advent, and in fact each day, God works in so many ways to get our attention. I’m not sure that God goes to the length of the wife who seized the opportunity of the crew clearing away the elk found dead on her front lawn. She convinced them instead of hauling it away to deposit in her upstairs tub. Asked why, she said that her husband always asked her how her day was and then when she told him he was so bored he really never listened or cared. At least this would get his attention! God uses so many events and opportunities that are so much more crazy. Elk in the tub by comparison are not much.
John came wearing just camel hair and a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey (try getting that from a busy bee-hive!), and calling people to repent, be baptized, and … then he points to Jesus.
In his book (full disclosure: I’m still waiting to get the one copy from the library system, so I’m working just from the Ideas program) Gann’s language captures one’s attention. It’s beautiful, with full descriptions of each person, even minor characters. And it’s brutally honest.
So much about aviation tells the story that people want to hear, stories modified so that the risks, real deaths, and survivors all in control of the outcomes. After all who wants to hear that a safe return from their next flight, or their loved one’s next flight, is wholly beyond the control of the pilots?
Gann tells it like it is. He survived near death events so many times. He tells them like they were, fully capturing our attention as he exposes that time period’s ‘adventure’ that flying was, a dangerous adventure at best!
He then recounts from the archives of the accident reports in which 400 pilots died from similar or even less dangerous circumstances. He names the pilots.
Throughout he asks, why did I survive when so many even better pilots did not? Not a practising Christian he did believe that ‘something bigger’ was out there ‘in the skies’ beyond where he flew. He could not deny it, yet he sees the outcomes as capricious fate.
When God grabs our attention, and who knows what that will take, then we know the outcome of our survival is not capricious. God saves us. The question we cannot answer is why God does not save us all?
But the consequence of being saved, of surviving again, is simple. We give God thanks, with everything left in our lives. What that entails is different for each of us, but it’s nothing less than jettisoning what we do not need, and taking the basic necessities with us through life. That life is always like John the Baptist’s: we live and work for God to get people’s attention, we call them to repentance and baptism, and we point to Jesus as the source of life.
Following Jesus we avoid hate and anger, and cultivate grief and joy, and always we celebrate with thanks all that God gives us.
No matter how long we have been at this, our journey is not completed, nor is God done trying to get our attention. There is always the ‘next flight’ to take. It’s more than an adventure, and more than a ‘dangerous adventure’. It is life serving God, following Jesus, trusting and exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
At about 18:00 the evening of 29 Nov 2022, laying reading, the bed roll under me shook for about a minute, not wind, but ground movement! And last night an earthquake was reported near Peace River. Was this an aftershock? It’s the one good explanation I’ve got. So maybe?
Or was it God trying to get our attention, yet again!?
To what is God calling us today, this Advent, this coming year?