Pastor’s Corner: “30 second Sermon”
Matthew 24:44 (AMP) – 44 Therefore, you [who follow Me] must also be ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him. 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) – 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
“Brace! Brace! Brace!” The flight attendants were preparing passengers on American Airlines Flight 2775 for impact. The pilot—which had just taken off from Charlotte and was heading to Seattle—announced moments earlier that the plane was experiencing engine failure and that they needed to prepare for a crash landing. The attendants ran frantically up and down the cabin, preparing them.
Pastor Kyle Donn of community life at Peninsula Bible Fellowship in Bremerton had missed the explanation on exactly how to brace. He wondered if he was doing it right, so he looked around and witnessed a grown man crying. He also saw a couple holding hands tightly. He had never felt so out of control, totally exposed and honestly—so scared. Three rows from the back of the plane, in a middle seat, with absolutely no ability to change anything that was about to happen, he played through his mind that in the next few minutes he could be meeting God.
Kyle and his wife Brittany took a moment to remind each what they had been reciting in their daily devotional. They spoke the words back and forth to each other: “I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in both life and death, to God and to Jesus Christ my Savior.” Kyle asked her, “Did you do anything for God to save you?” Britt said, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Christ did it all.” People around them were weeping, chests to their knees.
He turned his attention to the young woman sitting on his right. They’d had a pleasant conversation before takeoff, but now she was sobbing, curled into a brace position. He leaned toward her and asked: “If we die in the next few minutes, do you know what’s going to happen?” She said something about growing up Catholic and going to purgatory, or heaven, or something. She was unsure. He said: “I’m going to share with you why Britt and I have hope right now; I hope that’s OK.” She said it was.
He then started preaching to a larger group in the rows around him, loudly over the sound of the plane. A 30-second sermon: “I don’t want to scare anyone, but I want you to know why my wife and I have hope right now. We have peace with God!” A couple of heads turned and looked at him. “The God who made everything wants to make peace with us, even though we’ve broken his world. He loves you so much that he left heaven to make peace with sinners by dying on a cross. His name is Jesus. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is the risen Lord, and you’ll have peace with God!” No one laughed. No one scoffed.
They’d been above the clouds for a bit, but the ground was now getting closer. He saw trees and then closer, more trees. It felt like forever and a split second all at the same time. Then, somehow, suddenly he saw a runway underneath them. They glided onto the tarmac. Hollering, clapping, cheering, crying. Everyone called a loved one or two. They stepped off. They got their $12 meal vouchers. They waited at the gate for the replacement plane. And the wonder of it was that most passengers didn’t seem to care. Did they register what had just happened? Did it not jolt them awake to the precious fragility of life? Phones and headphones came back out quickly. People finished the Netflix (back to Netflix) shows they had started on the plane, or Candy Crush, or scrolling social media.
Maybe the return to mediated normalcy was a coping mechanism. But Kyle and his wife were stunned. God had grabbed them with a word. Something like: Any moment could be your last. You are not in control. Be ready. It was the sort of experience that had the potential to wake us up—to draw us into a new urgency and awareness of life’s fragility, and God’s goodness in leaving heaven to initiate a relationship with us.
Pastor Kyle doesn’t know if anyone heard or responded to his 30-second sermon in those frantic moments. But he’s glad God gave him the courage to not stay silent. He’d been meditating on the gospel for years. Now it was coming out, thanks to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. He prays that God will continue to give him, and every Christian, the courage to speak up. The precious souls around us need to hear—or be reminded of—the gospel of ultimate hope. That’s as true in a plane about to attempt an emergency landing as it is in a coffee shop or a cul-de-sac.
In a world of such violent contingency—where a life can be snuffed out at any moment, in any number of ways—you need to know what comes next. You need to know what will happen after you die. You have an eternal soul. “Do not marvel at this,” Jesus warned, “for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, the righteous to the resurrection of life, and the wicked to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28–29).
Don’t miss your chance. Don’t wait to meet God. Don’t overthink it. Don’t talk yourself out of it, out of pride or pain or apathy. Simply accept the peace terms he’s extended. Do not delay. I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, or how anti-God you’ve been. If you accept God’s peace terms—turning from sin and trusting in Christ—you will know for certain where you’ll be after you die. And you can live with peace and hope in a world where death, for any of us, is only ever a sinkhole or failed engine away. (Adapted from blogs at kyledonn.com.)
In His Grace,