Summary: Epiphany 5: People in extraordinary situations have demonstrated that responding properly saves lives. Christians also have that privilege - to be all things to all people in order that some might be saved.
Our oldest son is in the Navy. Last year my son’s submarine, the USS Santa Fe finished a major overhaul and returned to its homeport in Hawaii. When a ship or submarine goes through a major overhaul, it undergoes a series of sea trials and exercises before it deploys. The purpose of those is to make sure that both ship and crew are ready to engage in battle. Often, this is not a happy time for the crew of the ship. In fact, things can get down right testy.
When my son’s boat – I have no clue why, but that’s what submariners call their submarine, a boat – was on sea trials, my son was a bear. He was griping and upset the whole time. His blogs were angry, his tone of voice was rough – all this because the demands on his men and on him were so intense. They had to work 16 and 18 hour days and they were at sea and away from their families so much of the time. Now friends, I’m not sure whether you know this or not – but in the Navy, griping and grousing are taken to a whole other level. Complaining is a fine art with it’s own vocabulary and idioms. When it comes to fussing, Lutherans come close, but in a ‘griping and grousing super bowl,’ I’d put my money on the Navy guys.
In August of last year, during one of those sea trials, the USS Santa Fe engaged in a pretty routine manuever – the sub put up its air-recycling snorkel. This device is a periscope-like tube that is pushed to the surface of the water in order bring in fresh air. Then something very un-routine happened - a valve in that snorkel failed. Instead of fresh air coming into the boat – in a few seconds thousands of gallons of saltwater poured into the submarine. The saltwater caused some electrical fires in the boat. Immediately the crew went to general quarters. The long hours of training made a huge difference when the chips were down. The crew was able to control the situation and the USS Sante Fe returned safely to harbor.
When the chips are down – that’s when it’s important to respond with the right decisions and actions. Ask the 155 people who were able to walk away from the Airbus A320 airplane that was landed in the Hudson River by Captain Chesley Sullenberger. When a flock of birds knocked out both engines, every decision had to be right because life and death were at stake – and 155 people were able to walk away from the plane.
You might think that those kinds of situations only occur if you are a pilot or maybe a member of the crew of a nuclear submarine or in some another critical vocation. But that is not the case at all. You see, every single one of us steps into the breach much more often than you might imagine. While in that breach, we are right at the place where heaven and earth meet. We become part of an ageless struggle - a struggle whose cosmic significance was made plain on a Cross on a hill where the God-Man, Jesus Christ, put it all on the line when the chips were down. Jesus made all the right choices, under the most impossible conditions so that the people of the world would have an opportunity – a chance – a possibility, of coming
into a loving, living relationship with their Creator.
And this epic and cosmic struggle is re-lived in the life of each person. We all come to a place in our lives where heaven and earth meet. Sometimes this happens many times in the life of a person. It might be cancer. It might be a divorce. It’ll be different for each of us. And at that place we’ll find Jesus. At that place, the Lamb of God has met people for generations, taken them by the hand and translated them into God’s eternal Kingdom. At that place, people who are lonely and afraid - and sometimes despised - find a friend named Jesus who really, really understands them – and who is so very willing to embrace them.
How does God make this possible today? It happens as God puts his people in a position to be little Christs in the life of others. It happens as God puts us into positions to honestly, genuinely hear and engage others. We don’t even have to go out of our way to do it – God creates the opportunities and the venues that enable that to happen. There is a reason why the body of Christ is so diverse. There are cookers and bakers and candlestick makers in God’s Church. There are people weld and drive and people who are healers and CEOs. Each of us is uniquely prepared to be able to enter that one little corner of the world and to take the light of Jesus Christ into it.