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THE BEATITUDES: AN INSTRUMENT PANEL


On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was killed when the Piper Saratoga light aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. His wife, Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, were also killed. The intended flight path was along the coastline of Connecticut and across Rhode Island Sound to his final destination of Martha’s Vineyard Airport.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the crash was caused by "the pilot’s failure to maintain control of his airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation." The cause of his disorientation was hazy conditions which existed on the night of the fatal crash, coupled with the fact that he was insufficiently trained to fly using the instrument panel. Especially at night, haze can lead to disorientation for pilots. Other pilots flying similar routes on the night of the accident reported no visual horizon while flying over the water because of the complete fog which made it impossible to know up from down. Because of the conditions he thought he was flying in the right direction, but instead he flew his plane downward until he was in a death spiral. He thought he was going up when he was in reality going down.


Kennedy, like many people, thought he was going the right direction even though the haze made it impossible to distinguish between heaven and earth. He did not rely on the instruments, but on his gut feeling. Jesus has given us an instrument panel to guide us and help us to distinguish between heaven and earth. That is what the Beatitudes are for. This is what Jesus intended to do: get us headed in the opposite direction of what we think (and everyone is saying) is the right direction. The beatitudes help us to remember that we are headed for another world and that the rules are different, We cannot rely on our gut feeling about what is right or wrong, up or down. We need to believe in the instrument panel we have been given to guide us as we live in another kingdom.


And then the scripture will be fulfilled that says, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'" Matthew 25:34

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