Airport Prayer

(Originally published in the Journal Review, October 2013

Last weekend I had the, well, I wouldn’t call it pleasure, of spending many hours in an airport. I’ll spare the details of delayed flights and missed connections. Needless to say, I was glad to be finally back on hoosier soil late last Saturday night. It was good to be home.

Some amount of ‘people watching’ is almost unavoidable in an airport. I admit it, I am fascinated in considering the diversity of people, young and old, families and single folks, from all different backgrounds, from different parts of the country (or world!) sometimes speaking a variety of languages, coming and going to and from different places, all gathered for a few hours together in a terminal. Of course, ‘people watching’ can become a bad thing, when it leads to the temptation to judge or covet. I’m not talking about creepy stalking here, I just mean the wonder at the vastness of the human experience – all these people, the backpacking twentysomething on his way to Europe, the young couple trying to keep their kids entertained before the flight back home, the retired veteran, all of them have a world of relationships, experiences, dreams, failures, faith and doubt within them. Every one of the hundreds of people who rush by me trying to make their connecting flight experiences this life with the same complexity as I do. Its actually something that can become overwhelming to consider. Its like we can’t wrap our minds around the vastness of this human experience, we’re limited. Even if we wanted to, we cannot meet and know every person. We can barely meet and know the handful of people we encounter in our lives!

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading in the Orthodox Christian lectionary was about one of Jesus’ most profound miracles. The scripture was Luke 7:11-16. In the Gospel account, Jesus raises a widow’s only son from the dead, even in the midst of the funeral procession to bury the young man. The account is beautiful, and, as with so many of Jesus’ miracles, it involves a personal encounter in the midst of a crowd. He notices one person in need, and, in his healing of their condition, brings a certain ‘healing’ to all those present. In the account from last Sunday it says that all the people around celebrated and said “Surely God has visited His people!”

Thats really at the heart of what is so profound about Jesus’ ministry. He visits people. Its always personal. He doesn’t put out a decree that all lepers be healed – He visits and heals lepers, with names and stories. He doesn’t wave his hand over a crowd and say “anyone who needs anything here – you now have what you need!” He finds one person with a name and a story, and meets them where they are, and brings healing and care. The truth is, though, these personal encounters do proclaim the promise healing to all, because Jesus is the very Son and Word of God. He is proclaiming the possibility of the mending of mankind’s broken condition. While it is impossible for us to consider and meet everyone, it is not impossible for God. And God is still in the business of visiting His people!

In God’s eyes, every person in that airport terminal, the vastness of their lives and experiences, is known. He sees all as having been uniquely and lovingly created in His image. He desires to visit and heal our sickness and injuries, the ways that we have distorted our true identity, that image, through sin and dysfunction. He desires, and is able to visit each and every person, if they are willing to receive Him. Jesus told Hs disciples “if I be lifted up (speaking of His coming death on a cross) I will draw all people to Myself (John 12:32).