With Him I Am Well Pleased

With Him I am well pleased

Tom Euston

A family mourning the loss of a loved one who died of lung cancer at the age of 56 almost missed bidding him farewell at his funeral when a flight delay made them late for the last flight of the day to their destination.

Before Jay Short died December 16, 2015, he requested that his body be buried in the family plot in Bolivar, Tennessee. In accordance with his last wish, his casket was placed on board a plane on Saturday morning, December 19.

That afternoon Marcia, Jay's wife of 32 years, the couple's three children and other family members were to fly from Phoenix, Arizona, to Memphis, Tennessee, in order to attend the funeral the next day. But damage to the cargo doors kept them waiting on the tarmac for an hour before they were cleared for take-off to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

When they arrived in Minneapolis, they had seven minutes before their connecting flight was due to depart. Somehow they managed to get to the gate with two minutes to spare, but there was no attendant at the podium. They could see the jetway pulling back and the plane taxiing toward the runway.

Marcia and her son Rick began waving at the pilots, pleading through the windows for them not to leave without them. Hearing the commotion, the gate attendant came out of the jetway to assess the situation. She said there was nothing she could do as the door was already closed.

By now Marcia and her daughters Nicole and Michelle were all crying. If they did not make that flight, the last one to Memphis that day, they explained, they would miss the funeral. The gate attendant called her superior, who offered to put the family on a flight to Atlanta, suggesting they could drive the rest of the way.

That idea was quickly evaluated and discarded as unworkable. Rick told Fox 10: "The lady … said there was nothing they could do, that the tower wasn't going to let them pull back in," but he kept pounding on the window anyway.

The pilot, Captain Adam Cohen of Endeavor Air, a Delta Airlines subsidiary, observing the desperate family from the cockpit, asked what was going on. Upon learning the situation, he made the decision to return to the gate to let them board.

ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said the pilot risked "the censure of his company," since on-time departures are critical to the success of any airline. But Delta praised Cohen's decision.

So did members of the family Cohen helped in their time of grief. "The heartache and thought of missing that flight hurt tremendously," Nicole Short posted on Facebook. "It's very rare [that] someone stops and does something so kind, and we need more people like that in the world." Cohen's act of kindness made it possible for the family to reach Tennessee in time to lay their loved one to rest in his hometown.

"This pilot deserves more praise than my family can give him," Nicole wrote. "[I] hope others reading this will think twice and spread more kindness around."

For his part, Cohen seemed gratified that his action eased the family's pain. "This is something we'll take with us, knowing we made a difference," the pilot said. "Little moments like this to us are big to these customers -- but at the end of the day, it also keeps us going."

(From the Wired Word 1/7/16)

There were rules and protocol this pilot needed to follow. He risked a lot to help people in need. He risked condemnation by the company he works for. He may have risked losing his job. But he saw people in need and knew he could help and knew he needed to help. He broke the rules and took that risk. The airline didn’t fire him or punish him in any way, but instead praised him.

Rules and regulations have their purpose, but I think sometimes people try to follow the rules too much. When someone is in need, and a rule stops you from helping them, perhaps the rule needs to be bent. I remember some advice I received a few years ago from my pastor. A situation came up where I needed to do something I was not authorized to do. He said to err on the side of grace. I have found that to be very good advice, and that is what the pilot did in our story, he erred on the side of grace.

The article didn’t tell us anything about the pilot’s faith or faith tradition, and it really isn’t important. But his actions were what I suspect Jesus would have done had Jesus been in that situation. Jesus would err on the side of grace and show God’s love to those in need.

When we are baptized we become part of the Body of Christ, part of the Christian Church. As we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, today, it is also good for us to remember our own baptism.

We are united by a common faith in Jesus Christ. The power at work in this community does not come from our own strength but from God’s Spirit working in us. Claiming God’s promises, we remember again God’s gracious love for us and recommit ourselves to joyful life together in Christ.

Through baptism God gave us a gracious sign of love and hope in Christ. Hear again the promises God has made to us in Christ.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ— if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Through baptism God gave us a gracious sign of love and hope in Christ. Hear again the promises God has made to us in Christ.

Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promises to this covenant people. In baptism God promises by grace alone

to forgive our sins, to adopt us into the body of Christ, the church, to send the Holy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us, and to resurrect us to eternal life.

This promise is made visible in the water of baptism. Water cleanses, purifies, refreshes, sustains; Jesus Christ is living water. Through baptism Christ calls us to new obedience:

to love and trust God completely,

to forsake the evil of the world,

and to live a new and holy life.

Yet when we fall into sin, we must not despair of God’s mercy or continue in sin, for baptism is the sign and seal of God’s eternal covenant of grace with us.

God calls us to a new life, one where we leave our fears behind us and trust in God. God calls us to a new life where we help others when they are in need. God calls us to a new life, where people who are living in the darkness can see the light of Jesus shining through us and have their dark pathways illuminated. God calls us to a new life where we stand with those oppressed and work for justice.

When Jesus came out of the water and prayed after he was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and a voice from heaven said “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

When we were baptized, the Holy Spirit was also sent upon us, and remains with us each day of our lives, empowering us to live the new life God calls us to live, and I imagine God also tells us that we are God’s children, with whom God is well pleased.

Let us pray:

Lord God, gracious and merciful, you anointed your beloved Son with the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan, and you consecrated him prophet, priest, and king. Pour out your Spirit on us again that we may be faithful to our baptismal calling, ardently desire the communion of Christ’s body and blood, and serve the poor of your people and all who need your love, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

Amen.

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