The Transient World of the Aeroplane

ImageThere is a certain feeling of claustrophobia that sets in when sitting in a plane. 

Sitting in a plane at 2.30 am and knowing that there is another 8 hours of suspension in the air–typing on your smartphone to try and pass the time. There is a feeling that this is only a transitory world, and at that, a mind-numbing purgatory. Yet, the knowledge of this temporary existence reminds you of the depravity of the human body.

Next to you, is the solitary snorer on the plane, the problem is the only time he seems to snore is when you’re about to nod off and fall asleep. Behind you, there is the man who insists on playing Angry Birds on full volume–he can afford an iPad but not headphones apparently. With the symphonic cackle of birds and short-breathed groaning like the sound you make when repeatedly told your pet cat died, conspiring to cause me grief, frustration is becoming an appropriate word.

Moreover, there is a brooding helplessness knowing your brother is asleep next to you in the aisle seat. There is zero chance of escaping down to the toilet. I don’t even need to go to the toilet–it’s evidence of how much I worry perhaps. The fear of never being able to get out in the situation that I need to go to the toilet, even if only to vainly stare into the mirror for a few seconds. Feeling taken from all sides, in a seat that is too small for me, there is a sense of being trapped by adversity and this world is too small. Sitting in the plane, I feel very big in a small world.

The fear of my cramped feet terrifies me, it’s not so much that they are cramped–I slouch down to fit my feet neatly under the seat in front of me–but that if they were cramped. I’m not a claustrophobic person, but any person in a plane should seem to be prone to many fears not previously known coming to the surface of my conciousness. In the previous world, where we were on holiday–that is quickly forgotten as we take on our depraved state hoisted in the air–so quickly things change that nothing in the previous could have prepared us for. Helpless is the feeling when I spend too long thinking about the present–it seems to make us forget of the future where we would finally make it home.

Forgetting the destination, the existential longing for freedom begins to amount to a lot less. People become contented with walking down the aisle as their form of heaven, people think that a glass could contain all the waters of the world, and the food is from the banquet tables of kings. The thirst and the hunger become contented with crumbs and shadows of beauty and wonder. There is much frustration, but there is a hope that this world is only temporary. I feel that many people seem to want to embrace this world of flight with buying seats with more leg-room and seats that bend backwards flat, with greater choice in meals, with greater entertainment systems. Yet, I feel they are only strawmen as we approach in for landing in this new world.

Stepping off the plane the present worries are lost and the kingdom in the air is forgotten. In the scale of this world outside of this aircraft, the petty trials and temptations are lost–almost ridiculous in a way that they are quickly forgotten. We are home and rest is finally found. Heaven is this world we emerge into, the past will be forgotten, as we emerge into resplendent glory and infinite freedom in Christ.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalms 27v.14

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An Exhortation for Unity from Psalms 133

King David mused in the Psalms about the usefulness of unity among brothers:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
"It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
 For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore." 

Psalms 133 (English Standard Version)

He compares unity here to two things: running down the beard and robes of Aaron and also, the dew of Hermon which falls on Zion. With these two things he concludes that unity among brothers is what God has commanded, moreover he even calls it a blessing! In this blog I want to discuss the two things that David compares to the unity among brothers and some thoughts on their importance.

Firstly, the oil that was applied to Aaron is an image of what unity is like. The holy anointing oil would have had been a great fragrance, strongly perfumed and its odor would have been diffused in the space around. This would work with great pleasure to the bystanders when it was poured upon the head of Aaron. I wonder what fragrance we are giving out today. To our brothers and sisters in Christ, are we showing the love of Christ and diffusing a heavenly smell. Moreover, are we open to what our brothers and sister are diffusing, are our noses open to the wonders of God as well? In a sense (no pun intended) if we are only experiencing God through our ears, but not smelling, we are missing out so much on God’s fullness in our lives.

The second thing to take from the precious oil running down Aaron was that it was plentifully. So excessive that it ran down the face to his beard, and even down his collars of his robes! How plentiful is God’s grace to us, and how much should God’s grace indwell in us when we experience him, that it should flood our souls. Furthermore, he describes the oil as precious, something not ordinary. And indeed what great love that God has given us, not only for Himself, but as each other as well. The oil that David is describing here is an anointing oil that was only given to an select few among the whole nation of Israel. It says in Exodus:

“You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.”You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Exodus 30:29-30.

To link it back to this passage, David is linking the consecration of these priests to a brotherhood that is a consequence of this. In other words, we are celebrating our salvation when we are united with one another. When we are saved and Holy Spirit is indwelt in us in a greater measure, we become like Aaron covered in Christ’s blood and part of God’s priesthood, there is no greater joy to us than fellowship with brothers and sisters!

Secondly, David compares unity to the dew of Hermon. Mount Hermon which David is referring to here is a prominent mountain, reaching a height of 9230 ft on the northern border of Israelite territory. The important thing here, is the height of the mountain is the highest within the whole Israel territory, that brings about a sense of the awesomeness of the mountain. David uses dew of Hermon as the source of water that rains on the mountains of Zion, or Jerusalem which we are more familiar with. To truly appreciate this, we have to look at a map to see what David is referring to:

Mount Hermon is the square in the top right, and Jerusalem the one in the bottom left.

The map shows us the source of water for Zion, coming down from the mountain, running down the River Jordan and to the Salt Sea. The water was a way of sustenance for the whole of Israel, bringing livelihood to the whole nation. Without this source of water, the whole nation of Israel couldn’t have continued operating. It makes you really think of what reliance we have on God that we so often forget, that we could have all our dreams destroyed swiftly by a natural disaster. What then is the power of man, if he cannot predict when the next earthquake is going to strike? David here is applies this reliance on God to unity, the need to be in synergy with the whole body of Christ. For what brother can live without fellowship and congregating frequently? What would a sister pursue if not continually communing with other believers?

Here also we have to be careful, when Hermon is within the Promised Land that Israel was given by God, so too does unity only apply to our brothers and sisters. As to who exactly are our brothers and sisters, I think it is orthodoxy is my primary measuring stick. For example, I would not consider polytheists, pantheists or atheists brothers and sisters, on the basis that they are not in Christ, though love them always. Divine love will always trump human love, notice that both examples that David uses, they are of God’s work, not ours. We do not anoint ourselves with oil, God does consecrate us with His Son’s blood – Man does not control when the ground is flooded or parched, but God brings the dew that refreshes us daily. Unity is not a human reaction to others, it is a natural working through of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we should seek fellowship with one another.

The last two lines of this Psalm prescribes the greatness of this unity between brothers and sister. Unity is said to be a blessing that is coming from God himself, therefore it speaks of excellency. It speak of the “life forevermore”, therefore it is eternal blessedness in this state of God’s love. The Psalms is an argument for the excellency of brotherly love, if we are not continually united as a body, then we are not loving God. Simple as that. “As the perfection of love is the blessedness of heaven, so the sincerity of love is the earnest of that blessedness.” Matthew Henry

map source: http://www.netzarim.co.il/Shared/Temunot/Map%20Israel%201000%20BCE%20(Hammond)%20980×1427.jpg image source: http://www.colehardcash.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Unity.jpg