Food for Thought: Can We Get Serious Now?

From today’s “Food for Thought”:

 I expect everyone remembers the 2016 film “Sully:  Miracle on the Hudson.”  We remember it, if not for the fact that US Airways flight 1549 was headed to Charlotte on January 15, 2009 when it took off from LaGuardia Airport and ended up in the Hudson River 208 seconds later, then certainly because the actual aircraft involved is today part of the Sullenberger Aviation Museum only 3.3 miles from this sanctuary.  Tom Hanks gave a masterful performance playing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in that film and one scene always stands out in my memory.

During the public NTSB hearings, when it appeared that the findings would place most – if not all – the blame for the accident, not on bird strikes just after takeoff, but instead on the “human error” that many assumed Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles “must have been guilty of” that resulted in the aircraft landing in the Hudson River between mid-town Manhattan and Hoboken, NJ… Captain “Sully” responded to the NTSB investigators with the statement you see above:  “Can we get serious now?”  He went on to point out that no one – EVER – had experienced an event like he and Skiles had to deal with that morning; to assume a safe landing at Teterboro Airport or a return to LaGuardia was unlikely at best.  Simulations or not, he went on to say, “You are looking for human error; then make it human.  How many times did your pilots get to practice before they actually landed the plane safely?”  (The entire body gasped when the answer was given:  “Seventeen.”)

What strikes me so poignantly in this as it relates to the life of any church can be seen in today’s theme from John, chapter 10.  Try something when you get home and in front of a computer:  Google “The Good Shepherd” and click on “images.”  Notice how, among the thousands and thousands of images you can scroll through, almost NONE of them are actually “serious” about sheep, shepherds, reality or life.  You will see beautiful shepherds, lovely sheep, priceless stained glass, logos, clip art, cartoon figures, and usually a Jesus that cannot possibly be even close to the way he actually looked.  This oversight never fails to bother and annoy me – hence the image on the front cover of today’s bulletin.  It was the closest I could find to a “real life” shepherd holding a real life sheep.  He’s pretty scruffy, his clothes are all but tatters, and that sheep looks dirty and smelly at best!  The “pasture” looks like the last place you would want to walk with a 60 – 70 pound sheep on your shoulders. In other words?  It’s real.  Not made up.  Not cleaned up to the point it’s practically something even a Sunday school kid wouldn’t believe.

Why do we do this so often with the Gospel story?  Why do we insist on “cleaning it up,” making it “G-rated,” insuring that it speaks to no one because we don’t want to offend anyone, when doing all this will almost certainly rob it of its power to speak to our real lives – where we live them every single day?  Maybe we need that sheep smell.  Maybe we need a little more of the dirt; and a less than perfect looking shepherd to remind us that God comes to us in real life, in order to guide us as real sheep, and not to act out a Sunday school drama where everything is cleaned up beyond belief and we all wear dad’s bathrobe in order to understand Jesus as our Good Shepherd.  In other words?  “Can we get serious now?”


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