The Space Shuttle Columbia
A brilliant blue sky, which should have been an invitation to revel in a glorious day, instead ushered us again into tragedy. It's the kind of sky we had on September 11th. And it's the kind of sky we had 17 years and three days ago when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. And it's the kind of thing we can never get used to.
Columbia is lost, we heard on the news. But it wasn't lost; we could see it all too clearly. A blaze in the sky which disintegrated into thousands of pieces, breaking the hearts of seven families and breaking our hearts as well. Because the tragedy was on a Saturday - was that just yesterday? - the news was slow in getting out. We were separated from our usual community of school or work where people could gather together and together absorb the impact of what had happened. What I observed yesterday was a kind of disconnect for most people, continuing on with their Saturday but with one ear out for the news.
Disconnected is the only explanation I have for one person who stopped to chat with me. "Oh well", he said, "what goes up, must come down. You know what they say, if man was meant to fly, God would have given us wings." I confess that I had the very unchristian urge to bop him on the nose since my dad was a fighter pilot. But it went deeper than even family pride. You see, human beings were meant to fly, to soar. We were made in the Creator's image and even though we know that God is not just out there but in here that has never stopped us from wanting to explore the heavens; to unite the human spirit with the Divine spirit. We were meant to dream of challenges and explorations, even those that come at great cost.
There was a hymn written for pilots during the Second World War which reads in part: "O Holy Spirit, God's own power, give peace in sudden danger's hour; O wind of heaven, by thy might, save all who dare the eagle's flight; and keep them by thy watchful care from all the perils of the air." As our president said, the seven souls on the Columbia may not have returned to earth but we can trust that they all made it home.
Each person on the Columbia was doing what they had dreamt of doing all their life; how many of us can say the same?
My concern this weekend is for our children. They've seen a lot these past 18 months. My concern is that they may feel inclined to not to soar but to stay close to the ground; to exchange dreams for something supposedly more tangible. Can you imagine never dreaming of being an astronaut or undersea explorer, or even riding along with Indiana Jones, becoming a Jedi knight or joining Frodo on a great adventure? Not to dream - that would only compound the tragedy. For inspiration today, I look to the generation that is now dubbed The Greatest Generation that went through the devastation of a world war, and instead of playing it safe, looked to space and said, "I want to go there" and they did.
Every dream has a price. Maybe you didn't dream of being an astronaut but dreamt of being a teacher. And you discovered that the classroom can look like a war zone - that's a high price for the dream of making a difference in a child's life, but make a difference you do. Almost every person here can think of one teacher who made a difference.
Maybe you dreamed of a career in medicine and you discovered that a lot of it is just paper work and dealing with insurance companies. There is too much to do in too little time - and that's the price you pay for your dream and it's a high price. But then a patient shares a word of thanks and you know you've made a difference and the dream continues.
Even just the simple dream of a place of your own or maybe a family of your own comes with a price. Not to dream, now that's a price too high to pay. So how do we reclaim our dreams today? By not holding anything back from God. By not holding back tears, or frustrations or anger or questions. And by not holding back our hopes, aspirations and our dreams. We have to give God everything. We have to give God ourselves.
This morning in the church calendar is called The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. It's a fancy way of saying that today is the day we remember when the parents of Jesus brought him to the Temple, in accordance with Jewish custom, to offer him up to God. Mary was carrying not just the dream of her heart but the dream of God when she walked into the Temple. It was a dream that in the person of Jesus, the love affair between God and humanity would finally be consummated. Simeon predicted to Mary that "a sword will pierce your own soul". I think Mary experienced that time and again as all parents do. The first time Jesus fell and scrapped his knee while learning to walk. The first time someone picked on him. The first time he left home to find his own way. Things that happen to all children. Things that stab the soul of a parent because you can't stop your child from living, which means you can't stop them from being hurt.
Then came the day a sword stabbed not just her heart but God's heart as Jesus fulfilled the dream of reuniting God and humanity on a cross just outside of Jerusalem. Was the price worth the dream? I believe so or I wouldn't be here today. I believe so because now in Jesus Christ, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?, Paul asked in his letter to the Romans. Will hardship, or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword. NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angles nor rulers, not things present, not things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
Fulfilling a dream comes with a price but don't stop dreaming. It's a gift from God and remember that in Jesus, nothing that happens in the sky above or the earth beneath, can separate us from God and the dreams that God has for us.
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor
Church of the Holy Comforter