I hopped a flight to California recently (which you'll also hear about this coming Sunday, by the way!) and grew dismayed as soon as the plane took off. All the passengers around me immediately dug out their earphones, and plugged in to the screen built into the headrest of the seat in front of them. One guy near me plugged his earphones in, selected an action movie, then opened up his lap top, while also juggling his smart phone, only to have his watch start dinging due to an incoming email so that he plucked away at that device too. He was in a zone, and hardly paid attention to anybody else around him.
But he wasn't alone; everybody was in on it. They were watching movies or playing games on their devices. Some watched TV shows while others studied the flight path on a map. Interestingly, nobody was interacting with anyone else. Now I know I'm a bit gregarious, but I wasn't asking for much. I wasn't on the look-out for new life-long friends. Just a brief conversation is all I wanted. "Where you from?", "Where you going?", "Is it well with your soul?" Things like that! But no, everybody was zoned in to their own particularity and weren't inclined to speak a word to their neighbor. That was disconcerting, and so I gave up and plugged in to my device too, creating what some call a "tech cave" where they only tune in to their own entertainment or communication. The cabin stayed verbally silent for the next 3.5 hours - except for please and thank yous with the flight attendants.
I wanted more out of my journey, so on the return trip, I made sure those around me saw me as an open and happy traveler, ready to engage. But nope. Everybody put on their headphones and shut out the world around them. Thankfully, Craig Stacey, from our church, happened to be on this flight too. He was about ten rows ahead of me, and we were able to connect and talk football for a little bit - which was nice. All the same, I still had high hopes of interacting with a real live honest-to-goodness stranger!
Next to me sat a young couple and they began working on a crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine. I couldn't help but peek at their progress as the flight continued. Now we were getting close to Mpls-St. Paul, but they still had six unanswered questions, and seemed stuck. I'm kind of good at puzzles, so I took my ear phones out, encouraged them to take theirs out too, and I offered to help. They were so pleased because they really wanted to fill in every box. I perfectly remember their first unanswered question: "The book that describes the Israelite's escape from Egypt, led by Moses." Hey, what are the odds, but I knew that one! E-X-O-D-U-S. I actually knew five of the six puzzles, but by filling those in, the young couple figured out the last one too, so they happily completed their mission, and I was glad to have had the chance to help just a little - and they were very kind and appreciative of my extroverted involvement!
A seminary professor I had used to like to say we people are "hard-wired" for each other. In other words, God created us with the desire to interact, to communicate with, to care for one another. I like that, and have always believed it. I think that is one of the true blessings that church gives us - a chance to journey together meaningfully with other people of faith. How does 1 John 4 put it? "Beloved, let us love one other, for love is of God, and everyone that loves God is born of God and knows God."
Get ready to unplug from the grid this very Sunday, and let's see each other in church!