My Father’s Pilot

One of the things I will be doing frequently on the blog is posting things I’ve previously posted elsewhere. This one was from the original blog, was posted November 2, 2010, and was a response to a call for definitions of the gospel.

There are few people who have shaped my view of God and the Gospel more than this next contributor.  I learned from at his knee, and occasionally across it.  This is my father.  His name is Wayne Sams.  He lives in Springfield, MO.  Please join me in suggesting that he write a book some day!

We often use the expression – “now that is good news.”

It was just yesterday (as I type this) that a very good friend of mine, Brent Hulett, left a work/mission assignment in the Middle East.  When it was time to head back home to his family in Florida he caught a plane out of Dubai headed for JFK International Airport to catch another flight south to Florida to his waiting family.  All unknown to Brent his life was hanging in the balance.  Indescribable enemies were threatening to blow up planes with packaged explosives one of which was believed to be on his plane.  However, the plane landed safely escorted by fighter jets courtesy of the United States Air Force.  Now that is “good news.”

There’s lots of good news actually.  I cease not to marvel that I have lived this far into the 21st century.  When my Dad, in his preparation for a ministry assignment, wanted to find a good definition of, let’s say, the word “gospel”, it took my Dad hours of study gleaning bits and pieces from several different authors in several different books to come up with an answer.  It took me 30 seconds to type in the word “gospel” in “Wiktionary” to come up with:

Old English godspel (corresponding to good +‎ spell, i.e. “good tidings”), used to translate ecclesiastical Latin bona annuntiatio, itself a translation of Ecclesiastical Latin evangelium / Ancient Greek εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion, “evangel”), literally “good news”. Compare Old Norse and Icelandic guðspjall.

Call it laziness or whatever name you want, but to be able to sit on my couch in my pajamas, with a 5 pound electronic magazine and have immediate access to a virtual library of congress at my finger tips, is marvelously “good news.”  In just a minute or two I’ll push a button and send this document postage paid to the publisher.  Done!

I did nothing to sit where I sit as the calendar pages are turned.  I’m just here.  And I’m glad.

So, this is the picture that I see as a somewhat decent picture of the good news that is the Gospel as Christians use the term…

I’m still sitting on the couch in my pajamas – hey, it’s Saturday and it isn’t noon yet.  Some centuries ago, an indescribable enemy was responsible for designing a somewhat explosive package called sin that my ancestors took on board.  It was passed along from father to son (sorry about that Rick) and from mother to daughter.  And without exception, I and all my cousins – even the in-laws – have embraced the package.  We sinned.  I sinned.  I didn’t want to but I did.  I wanted to quit but I couldn’t.  I could tell you more, but it’s a mess.  Going over it again wouldn’t make you or me any holier or happier.

But here, as I try to wrap words around it, is my understanding of where I am today.  I lean back in this flight this morning trusting the Pilot to bring me to my desired haven.  I’m as guilty as sin because I have sinned.  I’ve pretended otherwise and was arrogant.  I was a humble preacher and missionary and I was quite proud of it.  I’ve picked at moats in the eyes of my brothers and sisters and told them that what they saw in my eye was a gleam – it was a beam.  I have spit shined my halo – there was lots of spit and no halo.  In fits and starts I’ve worked hard at this job of being holy.  I pushed, as it were, very hard on the seat in front of me to make sure this trip ended in heaven.  No matter that my pushing and cajoling my fellow passengers was not helping them or me either.  I gave other passengers important lists of things they should and should not do, what they should and should not wear on the plane, how they ought to act and not act.   Most of them wanted me to just shut up, lean back and trust the Pilot.

This flight isn’t over.  I still get a little panicky when I see a passenger that just doesn’t quite have the look of a Delta passenger, Pan American passenger, or a United passenger (choose your own denomination).  I expect many of them get a little nervous seeing a passenger like me riding along age spots and all, bald, criticizing the other passengers – still at times pushing and shoving the people around me — still in my pajamas no less.  If someone deserved to be kicked off the plane – it is I.

But here’s the fun conclusion of this.  As unworthy and as unlikely as it seems, I’m very much on board.  The price of this passage was prepaid many years ago, interestingly enough, by the Pilot’s Son.  I’m learning to trust this Pilot who has promised us a safe landing.  I sense the presence of heavenly escorts off the right wing and off the left wing.  I sense the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  But if I did not sense a thing – and frankly there are seasons that I do not – I know we will land safely.  “Now THAT is Gospel. That is Good News!”

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