(watch here: https://youtu.be/Cl9gnlXVqXQ)
He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a plane that was preparing for takeoff. After all the passengers had boarded and gotten situated in their seats, the pilot and copilot walked across the tarmac and boarded as well. Both the pilot and co-pilot were wearing dark sunglasses and using canes to guide their way. The passengers were understandably uncomfortable but assumed it must be some sort of practical joke so they said nothing. As the plane began to accelerate, the passengers saw the end of the runway rapidly approaching, with certain doom awaiting at the end if the pilots really couldn’t see what they’re doing. Just before the end of the runway, all the passengers screamed together–right before the plane lifted off. They’re a little upset but relieved that the pilots weren’t really blind after all. In the cockpit, the pilot turned to his copilot and remarked, “You know, Lou, one of these days they’re not going to scream in time, and then we’ll be in real trouble!”
We’re all on this crazy plane ride together we call life. Some of us like to believe they know exactly where the plane is taking us. Others like to believe they are the pilots of the ride while others are perfectly happy just sitting back and plugging into whatever distraction is available. Some like to enjoy the scenery as the plane barrels through time and space. Some leave the plane ride before others, some join the ride after others. We all have a destination but how we get there is uniquely our own. While some of us may reach that destination at the same time, none of us ever gets there exactly the same way as anyone else. We all have our own unique experience on the plane ride of life.
Which makes it funny to think that anyone would believe they are the pilot of anyone else’s life, let alone their own. At best, we’re just blind pilots going through the motions and quickly reacting wisely along the way like those blind pilots in that joke. There are far too many uncontrollable variables that help make each life truly unique. The world is constantly changing, constantly evolving. What affected us yesterday might not affect us today or tomorrow. We must continuously adapt to the ever-changing world around us. If this little pandemic of ours has taught us anything it’s just that: that this world has powerful forces outside of our control. Almost nothing in this world lasts forever. This world is in a constant state of flux. Like cells in a petri dish, the parts of this world are forever bouncing off each other and mutating and dividing. Even the nonliving parts are affected by the living parts and vice versa. I read this week that ice shelves in our polar regions are melting and disappearing at an alarming rate but a rate that scientists had been predicting for awhile. The living parts of this world are having a profound effect on the nonliving parts. We just can’t pretend that the living parts of this world have no effect on the nonliving parts. Both nonliving and living parts of our world are continuously changing. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether they’re changing for the better or for the worse. But it’s undeniable the world is changing and will always be changing.
What isn’t changing, what lasts forever, are God and God’s love. God has always and will always be with us and his deep and abiding love for us is unending and never-changing. Friends, this is good news! The world and almost all that is in it will forever change but God and his love remains true and faithful. God is in our world…God’s love is in our world…these are just as undeniable as change in this world. God is at the root of all forces in this world. Even evil finds its source in God. Evil and suffering are not outside of God. God doesn’t encourage evil and suffering but allows for them to exist. Perhaps to bring us closer to him, perhaps not. I don’t know why He allows for suffering and evil to exist but I do believe they are not outside of God’s source and control. Suffering and evil are two of many paradoxes that exist in and through God. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, what I do know is that they exist because God allows them to exist.
And because God allows suffering and evil to exist, I hold him accountable for revealing their purpose. Why, God…why is there suffering and evil in the world? I think the idea that they help bring us closer to him is too…quaint. There are other kinder, more effective ways to bring us closer to him. Why choose suffering and evil for that? In fact, for many people suffering and evil drive them further away from God, especially if they believe that suffering and evil find their source in God as I do. No, they have their purpose and God has yet revealed it to me or anyone else as far as I know. I’ll keep seeking an answer though…
God is the only sure, unchanging, everlasting being in this world. And he’s the only being that can truly pilot us on this crazy ride of ours! He doesn’t deviate or change courses. He isn’t altered by the powerful forces of this world. Indeed, He is the strongest force in this world! ALL other forces revolve around him! Our petition, “do not bring us to the time of trial,” acknowledges this about our God. God is a faithful and true pilot. He won’t bring us to the time of trial…unless He has to. Isaiah says, “thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.” (48:17) Some trials are meant for our own good. There is a purpose to suffering. Don’t know what it is yet but God knows! And we can be assured that whatever the purpose is, it is deeply rooted in love. God loves us so very much that He wouldn’t allow us to suffer if not for a good reason.
Our God is not only a faithful and true pilot but also a generous and loving pilot. Isaiah says, “the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (58:11) Friends, this is the pilot of our lives who satisfies all our needs and makes us strong on our journey. God has a very specific destination in life: joy and peace and harmony. And God can adapt to meet the needs of all our unique lives. God customizes his flight for each of us. That is what we are acknowledging and thanking him for in this final petition of Jesus’ prayer. Let us lift up the petition with deep gratitude and praise. Our God is a great pilot! Let us sing with David in his 16th psalm, “you show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (vs. 11) Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.