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  • Eric Marshburn

February 2022 - Eric's Ethereal Cereal

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” ~Luke 19:8-10 (NIV)

“We have sixty-four souls on board… We’ve been running all the checklists and talking to our maintenance and the dispatcher and we have not been able to get the landing gear down… If it’s not completely obvious, we just want to confirm, we are declaring an emergency… Brace for impact! Heads down! Stay down! Heads down! Stay down!”

These are words from the actual voice recordings taken from the cockpit of a Delta Airlines Flight several years ago as the pilots and crew worked frantically to lower malfunctioning landing gear while they circled JFK airport in New York. Minutes later the flight crew calls for passengers to brace for impact and get their heads down just seconds before the actual landing took place. We still have video from inside the cabin taken by passengers, and see sparks flying from the plane’s fuselage as it scrapes the runway.

The actual incident had a happy ending as all “sixty-four souls” landed safely at JFK that day. The plane suffered less than cataclysmic damage. Yet, as an allegory, it serves as a message to the 21st century church, particularly in America. Have we become too preoccupied with what maintains the status quo, the approaches we should take, while neglecting to gain a healthy focus on our takeoffs and landings? The Captain of Flight 4951 became a hero (temporarily) that day, yet everyone on board that flight would/will one day face death, again, not to be escaped. Like Lazarus, the death-reprieve was a temporary stay. But even that truth doesn’t have the final say.

I invite you, now, to look back some seventy-seven years, to engage your redeemed imagination in an act of “Visio-Divina.” That is to say, to engage in prayer, which uses visual elements to help us become more conscious of God’s presence, allowing us to hear God speaking to the depth of our being through the image. Take a minute to study this one now…

This photograph was taken in April 1945 by Major Clarence Benjamin, US Army, 743rd Tank Battalion, just minutes after allied troops intercepted this train full of Jewish passengers on their way to a concentration camp and imminent death. Benjamin and the allied troops rescued these children of God from the jaws of death. Imagine what these people and their rescuers experienced in this moment.

The “Captain of the Church” has saved/is saving us, calling us to become a community that serves and saves, setting us free from the power of sin and death. As Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us, “this saving that Jesus offers us can be seen and experienced in the here-and-now. It is experienced as a transformed way of life in the world that is characterized by peace, meaning, and freedom.” It causes me to ask: How did these Jewish captives live the rest of their days after their death train was intercepted? How did the passengers on Delta 4951 change after their brush with death? How have our own lives been invaded, transformed by Jesus with peace, meaning, freedom, and love?

Blessings & Peace,

Pastor Eric

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