A May Note from Pastor Rich

Priorities

One day before the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the Flight 93 National Memorial was opened to the public on September 10, 2015. The $26 million complex near Shanksville, Pennsylvania pays perpetual tribute to the 40 Americans who heroically died while taking back the plane from terrorist hijackers. The memorial offers visitors the opportunity to hear recordings left for family members by two passengers and a flight attendant. Linda Gronlund can be heard leaving a message for her sister. She explained she was on United Flight 93, which had been hijacked by terrorists. In normal voice she states, “Apparently they have flown a couple of planes into the World Trade Center already, and it looks like they’re going to take this one down as well.” She then broke down and started sobbing as she said, “Mostly I just wanted to say I love you, and I’m going to miss you.”

Now, roll the clock forward nearly 14 years to the day from 9/11 when news broke about a British Airways jet engine catching on fire just before takeoff from Las Vegas on September 8, 2015. The passengers were abruptly evacuating down the inflatable emergency slides. In contrast to Flight 93, some of the passengers grabbed their carry-on luggage, (even when they were advised not to do so) which could have easily punctured the slides and jeopardized everyone’s safety. Others paused along the way for selfies during the emergency evacuation holding up the line of other people getting to the slides.

It seems what was important to the people on Flight 93 was different than that of the people on the British Airways flight 14 years later. Priorities change for cultures and individuals so it is wise to continually evaluate what we deem important. It would be good for each of us to consider what priorities we would have that live through any culture or any situation. What is important to you? What if you were to find yourself in a near death experience, what would be your priorities, where would your last thoughts be? I can tell you one thing. I would not be stopping to take any selfies! I am reminded of something Albert Einstein once said: “What counts can’t always be counted; what can be counted doesn’t always count.” Once you have been confronted with a life-and-death situation, trivia no longer matters. Your perspective grows and you live at a deeper level. There is no time for pettiness.

I would suggest two stated priorities found in Scripture. First is Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Our first priority in all of life must be, to be certain ourselves that we are right with God, born again, and destined for eternal life. Nothing else will matter if that is not cared for. Second is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” This is the issue that dictates to us how we live our lives. This is the verse that determines our moral and ethical compass. This is what regulates our day to day life, our relationships, our education, our employment, and our sense of security. This determines how we treat our family, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. It is our commitment to this second priority that determines what our walk with God looks like any given time of any given day. Such selfishness and egotism that we saw above, in the British Airlines flight, will find itself in check when our first and only concern in life is to live and express “the Kingdom of God.”

And how is “the Kingdom of God” expressed? It may be expressed in the fruit of the Spirit, or it may be expressed and lived out in the words of Jesus when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) His commandment was new because Jesus raised the bar. Moses told them to love their neighbor as themselves and now Jesus tells His disciples to love one another as He loved them. Jesus brings the command to the very intimate relationships in the church. So, unbelievers recognize Christ’s followers not by their doctrinal distinctives, or by dramatic miracles, or even by their love for the lost. It is the love they show for those in their own fellowship that matters. Now there is a priority that will make a difference.

Serving Christ Together,
Pastor Rich