Bound for God and Glory
As reported in the New York Times last week, there are now flights that go nowhere. Various airlines in Brunei, Japan and Australia are selling tickets for flights that take off and land in the same place. They range in length from a couple of hours to more lengthy excursions - but they all have this in common. You don’t get anywhere. Like stationary bikes of the sky, you begin and end with no ground gained. You get the experience of flying - the boarding, safety demonstration, cramped seating and an inflight meal - but that is all. You might think that flights which go nowhere are cheaper, but Australian tickets range from $600 - $2,700! And the flights are sold out! Clearly the idea originated from desperate marketing departments during this COVID crisis. But who knew that it would catch on? Apparently some are content with an experience of flight rather than reaching any particular destination. And if you think that odd, consider church and your own spiritual pilgrimage.
Most congregations work hard at providing an experience of faith. The Sunday services are shaped with music, preaching, fellowship and potlucks which seek to convey the reality of faith. We invite towards a religious experience. But the experience of church is not the same thing as making headway in our faith. Our Christian faith is not simply a religious experience, but we are to actually go someplace! The markers of progress are given to us. Paul worked to present everyone mature in Christ. (Col.1:28) He longed to see Jesus fully formed in each. (Gal.4:19) He trusted the Spirit of God to move us from glory to glory. (2 Cor.3:18) In other words, if all of our religious activity doesn’t take us anywhere, then we have the experience of faith, but remain the same. It may be costly. It might satisfy our craving for activity. It could soothe us with elements we find familiar. But the questions stands, “Am I moving towards Jesus, with Jesus and for Jesus? Or am I simply enjoying a religious ride and landing in the same place?
It would be easy to fault airlines for gimmicky tactics. They created the flight experience to offset COVID losses. Christians have suffered as well in this pandemic. We have lost the normal experience of church because of social distancing. But our loss may point us to gains. The shedding of our usual Church experience leaves us facing the essentials of faith. Our faith is about Christ, in Christ and for Christ. Our faith is to shape us, move us and ground us in love with our Lord. Such faith is supported by our Church experiences but it is not dependent upon them. We are pilgrims - that is, travelers of faith. The experience of a journey that drops us in the same place, is no journey at all. God has more for us.