Captain Chesley Sullenberger saw the birds before US Airways flight 1549 hit them in the air on January 15, 2009, blowing out both engines of his aircraft.
Clint Eastwood’s compelling movie “Sully” chronicles the flight and subsequent landing on the Hudson River that winter seven years ago. A riveting, breathtaking, horrifying, glorious, miraculous story.
“But the word of God is not chained,” Paul says in a letter to Timothy written from a prison cell.
A few years ago, I was on jury duty for a trial in which the defendant was accused of armed robbery. We handled the stolen cash, the guns used in the crime. The defendant wore a suit for the days of the trial, and after we returned a guilty verdict, the judge told us we could come back after lunch for the sentencing. We sat on the benches – not in the jury box – and watched as the prisoner reentered the courtroom, this time wearing an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled. It was shocking to behold.
Sometimes we feel those same shackles, those same chains binding our spiritual lives. We feel chained by envy, anger, hopelessness, despair, worry, unremitting sorrow. Sometimes my emotions are so intense that it is difficult to feel God’s presence, God’s peace within me.
You may have times when you feel this way, too. When we receive bad news about our health, or the health of someone we love. When a friend hurts us. When a co-worker or teacher is unfair to us. When we lose our job. When one we love dies. Our feelings can grow so strong that it seems as if there’s no way that God can pierce that inner tumult and bless us with the peace that passes all understanding.
So what to do? How do we cling to, live into Paul’s bold statement that the word of God is not chained? And how can we allow into our psyche the assurance held in those words that we ourselves are ultimately not chained?
We look again at Paul’s letter and see that his words to Timothy were not chained, that they found their way to his friends. They floated out between the bars of the cell and through the air and into Timothy’s hands. We turn to the prologue of John which resounds through the millennia to us, telling us of the word of God, the logos of God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
With those holy words, we are reassured once again that our darkness will not overcome that inner light that we have received from God. And we look at why Jesus came to be with us in the first place. We had chosen to be separated from God, and Jesus came to reunite us to God, to make us whole. And he came to remain with us always; he “burst his three day prison” and returned to his friends. He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the dove, the comforter and guide, to stay with us always. And we can prayerfully ask God for ways to make room for God’s peace to overcome any sorrow, anger or despair that we are feeling.
A way that works for me is to ask God to flow around all that troubling noise within me and to flow into me and to give me that peace that passes all understanding. God answers that prayer every time. No darkness, no sorrow, no despair, no crying out in the middle of the night is too strong for God’s peace. It always comes in the end. You may find that this way works for you, or you may have a different approach. It doesn’t matter. As long as we find a way to connect with God and receive that peace in the middle of the storming emotions within.
When Sully landed the plane on the Hudson River, the plane did not sink. She became like a living thing, wings outstretched, floating on the water while ferryboat operators, scuba divers, fire fighters, police converged and saved every passenger, every member of the crew. All the while, the plane floated in the water, her wings spread out like the wings of the dove, upholding the passengers, keeping them from drowning in the frigid waters of the river, sustaining them until they could be rescued.
And that’s how God’s love is with us, that’s how God’s love is for us. We can be confident that we will be kept safe from the cold waters, the sorrow and anguish, the anger and fear; that we will now and always soar; that we will now and always be protected; that we will now and always know God’s peace as we rest on the wings of the dove.