Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lent 4: Situational Awareness

(John 9:1-38)As he walked along [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”…

Eph 5:1-2) … be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I’d like to share a bit of my former experience with you. Up until 1992 I was an Air Force Officer, an Instructor Navigator on B-52’s and a teacher at the SAC (Strategic Air Command) Tactics School.

One of my jobs was to teach Aircrews about the things that could kill them in combat and how to avoid them. We would talk about Antiaircraft guns and missiles. We would learn about enemy aircraft that could shoot us down. But there was something else – just as deadly – that all of us instructors were expert in recognizing. It was a threat that could cause a pilot to fly a perfectly good aircraft into the ground…It could cause a navigator to direct the crew into a hazardous area or fly the airplane into a mountain in bad weather…It was a condition known as “Loss of Situational Awareness (SA).”

A person who had “Lost SA” became so focused that they were literally useless. There are a number of times (and you’ve read about them in the papers) where pilots were so concerned about a burned-out light bulb in the cockpit that they forgot to fly the plane… and crashed! That is why – as a crew – we trusted and relied on each other. Quite simply we depended upon each other to help keep us focused on what really mattered: Staying airborne and alive! It would be nice if this kind of situation only existed in battle situations. But our Gospel proves otherwise.

The Gospel of John (Chapter 9) tells us a healing event where a man – blind his entire life – has more vision than those who were supposed to be the visionaries of the community. The Pharisees were so focused on their own points of view their stubbornness became spiritual blindness. Quite simply: The Pharisees had lost Situational Awareness. But so had the disciples!

The Pharisees were pent upon proving Jesus a fraud. The disciples were sure that there must be a cause (sin) as punishment for a man to suffer blindness from birth. Yet Jesus proclaims that even a situation such as this, was an opportunity for the Glory of God to be revealed. It seems to me that the season of Lent is a time for the church to remember that we need to trust and rely on each other. While so much is emphasized on a “personal relationship with Jesus;” we have also to know that it is He who has given us to each other as the Church.

In the early days when the followers of Jesus came to be known a “Christians” originally that phrase was intended to speak of us as “little Christs.” That meant for us to be like Christ for one another. We have the gift of each other to help us see and understand the truths to which we ourselves are blind. Gentle reminders are all it takes: “Brother, how is your prayer life going?” “Sister, how is God helping you with your struggles?”

We can all lose our SA from time to time. Maybe (even in Lent) we’ve forgotten to pray as we should. Maybe we’ve forgotten that God is always there for support when we are struggling…and that at times when we’ve overstepped God’s will, God always is there to take us back through confession and repentance. St. Paul directs us: Be imitators of God! Imitate Him. Act like Him. Be like Him – in all things!

This is not some sort of “fake-it-till-you-make-it” theology; it is letting God transform us into His likeness. For if Christ is our God then God calls us to be doing what Christ did. That means we bring God’s light to those who are in darkness. It also means that occasionally we will confront – and witness to - those who need to have their own blindness revealed.

As a friend of mine says, “You are the only Bible some people will read.” How you live, act, and are is always on display (even if only to God). So we are there for each other…but remember…be careful to listen when others need to help you see through your own blindness, too! It’s not about judgment - It is about being Christ to each other. Its about the grace we all need. Thanks be to God for the Church - for you and for me. May Jesus' Name be praised!

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