Dec 28, 2021 08:00am
Lessons Learned on a Plane

One thousand six hundred seventy-two.

That is the number of Sundays in a row that I did not attend church. It is a figure that now shocks my conscience. With the importance that I place on church today, it is almost beyond belief to me. 

But that was my life until I encountered Jesus one Sunday morning in an old gravel parking lot. In an instant, I knew that church was something I needed in my life.

So now I only miss Sunday morning church for two reasons – an occasional vacation or illness. Even during the Covid quarantine months, I was there on-line every Sunday. But I’m not bragging. You see, my insistence on being in church is really somewhat self-centered. I need what church offers to me weekly. It benefits me. My life is better for being there.

Recently, my wife and I took a much-anticipated vacation. It was one of those bucket list “once in a lifetime” trips. It did not include plans for church. And no, I didn’t feel any guilt about that. But still, I had the nagging feeling that I hated to miss church.

But as we sat on the plane and the flight attendant began reciting the safety instructions for the flight, I had the overpowering feeling that I was hearing my sermon for the week. Pretty bizarre. But every single point of her talk seemed to point me to a nugget of spiritual truth that I needed to hear.

So before you write me off as nuts, let me explain the seven points I gathered from her “sermon”/safety instructions:

1. Listening

As she talked, it seemed to me that no one was listening. Perhaps they had heard it before or just didn’t care. Even though what she was saying could have life or death consequences, it seemed irrelevant to most everyone. Their attention was everywhere but on her words.

Could it be that we often treat the words from our spiritual leaders the same way? After all, we’ve heard it all before. Even though their words could have spiritual life or death consequences to us, do we really see them as relevant in the moment? How often is our attention everywhere but on the words that these leaders have been entrusted by God to speak to us?

And what about us listening for God Himself as He tries to communicate with us. How many of us can truly say that we intentionally concentrate on hearing God’s voice in our lives? Or do we, all too often, treat Him with the indifference that these passengers treated this flight attendant?

2. Safety Instruction Material

On every flight I have been on, there is a safety instruction folder in the holder on back of the seat in front of me. I think that it is required by law to be there. And she pointed it out to us. It tells us what we need to know in case of an emergency. Yet nobody looks at it, let alone studies on it.

You probably have already guessed where I am headed here. Yep – we all have access to the safety instruction book for our lives which we call the Bible. And not only does it tell us what to do in case of emergency, but it also provides guidance to us in every situation. Yet often, we treat it with the same indifference that the passengers treated the plane safety folder.

3. Lights

In the safety presentation, the attendant pointed out the lights along the floor that activate in an emergency to lead passengers safely out of the plane. The dependability of those lights is crucial as they may be the difference between total chaos and getting to safety. They may be the difference between life and death.

The same can be said of Jesus. He made it perfectly clear that He alone is the light of the world. He is the answer to the chaos in our lives today. And He is the difference between spiritual life and death. So following that light is the most crucial thing that we can do for this life and the next.

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you have the light that leads to life.’’’ (John 8:12)

4. Doors

Another important point in the safety presentation was pointing out the doors of the aircraft. It’s certainly not difficult to understand the importance of knowing where the doors are as they provide our access to being saved in an emergency situation.

Jesus also referred to Himself as the door that provides the only access to our being saved. Period.

“I am the door; by me if any man enters in, he shall be saved.”

5. Oxygen masks

The flight attendant went on to tell us about the oxygen masks that deploy should the cabin lose pressure and gave us two specific points that stood out to me. 

First, she told us that the inflatable bag on the oxygen tube might not inflate, yet we could be assured that oxygen was flowing. Well, it takes faith to believe that. Just like it takes faith to believe that Jesus is always with us and providing for us even when we don’t sense His presence. There will be moments in our life where we are unable see Christ working on our behalf, but He is. We have to make the choice to believe that.

The other point that stood out to me was the instruction to put on our own mask first before trying to help children or others dependent on us. That seems counterintuitive to me. But the truth is that we cannot take care of others that depend on us if we allow ourselves to become incapacitated. So we must take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually in order to help others.

6. Seat belts

The safety talk always comes with the instruction to buckle our seatbelts in case of unexpected turbulence. Life, just like flights, always carries the potential for unexpected turbulence. So we had better be prepared. And I know of no better companion amidst turbulence than Jesus.

7. Flotation device

Lastly was the instruction about using our seat cushion as a flotation device if needed. There will be times in our life when we will be in over our heads in some situation. We may feel like we are drowning and barely able to gasp for air. And Jesus may be our only hope of staying afloat. Just like knowing that cushion is there to keep us afloat physically, what a comfort it should be to know that He is there to keep us afloat when the waters of life are dark and rough.

So there you have it. Instead of a Sermon on the Mount, you have a sermon on the plane. Maybe not as theologically profound as I would have heard in church. Maybe you even think it silly. But possibly it contains a point or two that has some relevance to you. And hopefully, it encourages you to listen for God speaking to you even when you least expect it.

We are never promised a smooth flight in life. But with Jesus as our pilot, we can relax and enjoy the flight, having full faith in our final destination.

So buckle up.