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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Turn and Follow! Part I

On Luke 18:18-22
“God has created human beings with the ability to follow Him.” Karl Rahner

"And a ruler asked him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No, one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.' And he said, 'All these things I have observed from my youth.'And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, 'One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'"

In this past season of Lent, the Scripture readings, like the one above, present us with a reoccurring theme, that we are made by God to take up our crosses and then turn and follow God. In the Luke chapter 18 Gospel reading, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to, “Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come [or turn from where you are] and follow me.” But what does it mean to, “turn and follow?” I would like to illustrate one possible meaning by recalling the final seconds of a radio transmission of two 747 pilots (March 27, 1977, on the Island of Tenerife) who were told to “turn and follow” but got the messages all mixed up. However, before we push back from the gate on an ill-fated flight, please stow all your carryons underneath the seat in front of you, place your tray tables in their full upright and locked positions, fasten your seat belts and prepare for takeoff!

TOWER: Pan Am Clipper, take active runway, then turn and follow to exit C3 holding area. Wait for further instructions. I will call you.

Pan Am: Copy. We're taxiing down the runway now, Clipper 1, 7, 3, 6, out.

TOWER: KLM, 4, 8, 0, 5 turn and follow to end of active runway.

KLM CAPTAIN: Copy. KLM, 4, 8, 0, 5, out.

TOWER: KLM, STOP and HOLD. Wait for further instructions. (The communication is transmitted clearly, however it arrives as a shrill noise in KLM cockpit. The stop and hold message was not understood by the KLM crew, they continue on to the runway while Pan Am prepares for takeoff on the same runway.

TOWER: Roger, Pan Am 1, 7, 3, 6. Report when clear of the runway.

Pan Am: Copy. OK, we'll report when we’re clear of the runway.

TOWER: Thank you.

KLM FLT ENGR: Is Pan Am not clear then of the runway?

KLM CAPTAIN: What do you think?


KLM FLT ENGR: Is he not clear of the runway that Pan American?

KLM CAPTAIN: Ah… Yes. I think so. (KLM begins engine rotation)

Pan Am Captain: Sees the headlights of KLM landing gear rapidly approaching at 700 meters.


A series of errors, failed communication, foggy weather, wrong turns and unyielding to authority resulted in a catastrophic aviation failure and tremendous loss of life. In the airline business, it has become known as the crash of two 747 that now holds the record for the highest number of fatalities of any single accident in aviation history.

But just like the 747s and the pilots in our story, we too are built to be in communication and to turn and follow instructions. We are built to be in communication with God every moment of the day. God calls us to make correct turns and to follow him. And, just like the rich young ruler in today’s Gospel story, he calls us to have a preferential care for the poor. That is how he defines “follow me.” Jesus says, “Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, come, or ‘turn and follow’ me.” To be continued tomorrow …

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Lizzy said...

I can relate to your commentary. Sometimes it's just TOO hard to make it through the day, to work within the schedule I've made and to expect everything to go perfectly. In my quest to get things done right the first time I plow ahead ignoring the signals that are trying to tell me to slow down. God tells us to find him in the silence. Poor God, I think he gets my silence about 3 minutes before I fall asleep.

Anonymous said...

The Lord is always there giving us clear communication, just like a person in the FAA's ATC tower. If we do not follow His communication, I know from personal experience, things can go to hell very fast.