Flight Madness

Read the September 23rd Sunday Readings

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Something about airline travel turns the kindest, most generous people into absolutely selfish monsters. Every time I fly, I seem to encounter all kinds of human selfishness and entitlement. There are moments of generosity and selfless gift, don’t get me wrong, but I amazed at the number of “me first” moments I witness while flying. 

Oh, by the way, I am 100% talking about myself. I’m the monster. 

A couple months ago I flew a certain airline that lets passengers choose their own seats. I actually like and appreciate this model because it appeals to my sense of fairness. If you check in early or pay a little extra you get to board first and every seat is yours to choose from. 

I boarded early and sat in an aisle seat in the 3rd row. Hundreds of people boarded after me and poured towards the back of the plane hoping for a “not middle” seat. Alas this was a nearly full flight. The seat next to me was still open as the plane filled and I secretly hoped it would remain so. Finally the last few souls entered and after stowing bags one standing passenger exclaimed, “Wow this is full, where is there an open seat?” 

Did I raise my hand? Did I call out, “Oh brother human, over here! Please take your rest next to me.” No. I kept my head down and hope against hope he would sit behind me? Absolutely. Why? Because I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted the open seat. I wanted to be first. 

Jesus doesn’t mince words in the gospel this Sunday. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” I don’t know about you, but I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want that open seat on the plane and I want to follow Jesus too. I’m okay not being first, but I sure don’t ever want to be last. 

Jesus makes it abundantly clear again and again in the gospels, there is a choice between serving ourself and following Jesus. No middle ground exists. Either we follow Jesus and serve others or we serve yourselves. 

How do we do totally give up serving ourselves? First, we need to totally rely on God for the grace to do this. Left to my own devices, I will never offer the open spot next to me to the person looking for it on a plane. Second, we look to help people who can do nothing for us. We need to look to serve the helpless. Only by God’s grace can we hope put ourselves last. 

LIVE IT:
First of all, this week’s Good Word was particularly challenging to me. I constantly fail at this. So the Live It is most important this week. Turn to God each day from now until the next Sunday and ask God for the grace to be last. 

The Good Word for Sunday Sept 21

For the complete readings click here.

If I had a nickel for every time I screamed the words, “But mom, it isn’t FAIR!” at my mother when I was a kid, I would have more than a little walking around money. I was the oldest and nothing ever seemed “fair” to me. My sister got bigger pieces of pie and small punishments. She got more attention and a later curfew. I felt like that first laborer who worked all day in the sun and received the same wage as the guy who worked for only an hour – life isn’t fair.

Our gospel this week isn’t about fairness or about salary distribution, but about the inconceivable abundance of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is so “wealthy” with God’s infinite love that no matter when you or I come to receive God’s love and mercy, we always receive a full measure.

One could hear this story and say that the landowner was foolish and unwise with his pay scale, but in reality he is a landowner so wealthy that he never has to worry about how much he pays his employees. The same is true of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is overflowing with love and mercy for us to the point that God never has to worry about running out. God’s love is endless, infinite, and unconditional.

The workers in the story don’t get paid because they worked hard and long. No they get paid simply for saying “yes.” The workers all get a full day’s wage for saying yes to the landowner, for following him from the town square to his vineyard, and for choosing his land to work. If we want to receive God’s love and mercy, all we have to do is say yes to his invitation.
How is the way you live you life a “yes” to God?

Live it:
Before going to sleep tonight, ask God how you can yes with your life? Rest in silence for 2 minutes and listen.