Sunday, February 12, 2017

Flying Lessons

The Epiphany 6A reading from Hebrew scripture (Leviticus 9:1-2, 9-18) outlines the obligations of faithful people: leave gleanings for the poor and alien, don't steal, don't profane, don't defraud your neighbor, don't put a stumbling block, don't keep wages overnight, be partial to the poor, don't slander, don't reprove a neighbor or you'll be guilty yourself, don't bear a grudge against anyone.

The gospel reading (Matthew 5:38-48) finds Jesus developing ideas that have been around before. Don't do the least you can do, instead do more. Turn the other cheek. Give your cloak as well. Go the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you. Love your enemies.

The epistle reading (I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23) reminds us that we are building a temple based on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. We are to be wise and not boast about human leaders, instead remembering that we belong to Christ.

Reading these texts together can leave the reader feeling that faith is, if not burdensome, then at least heavy. Think how many people we become responsible for: the poor, the alien, our neighbor, our employees, those who would oppress us, those who make demands of us, those who beg from us and more. Living our faith connects us to people.

How is it possible to live abundantly while carrying responsibility for so many people? Do we become oppressed by our faith? No. And maybe we should thank Daniel Bernoulli for helping us understand that we can get our faith off the ground, even with great weight upon us. It is Bernoulli, a mathematician and physicist. whose experiments and formulations helped us understand how to get a 747 (which has an empty weight of about 400,000 pounds) off the ground.

Bernoulli was working with fluid dynamics, but in terms of flight, air is the "fluid". The shape of the wing causes air to move faster across the top of the wing than the bottom of the wing. Faster moving fluids (top of the wing) create less pressure, so the bottom of the wing creates greater pressure, creating lift. Lift opposes the weight of the airplane, allowing it to take off and remain in the air. The weight is not a deterrent to flying when air is moving and providing lift. In the same way, our lives of faith are given lift by the Holy Spirit blowing in and through our lives.
Mike Kelley. Airportrait of LAX. 2014. 
For more of Mike Kelley's work, see:
Photographer Mike Kelley's airportraits show just how many planes take off from given airports. Over and over, Bernoulli's
principle performs as it should, carrying more than 1.5 million travelers per day in the U.S.

Imagine all of those planes as people of God who are lifted to carry countless others. Suddenly it doesn't seem quite so burdensome.

On Facebook this week, a look at two specific instructions from this week's readings. Click on the link below. 

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