"Your flight has been canceled." That is not the news you want to hear when you arrive at the airport at 9:30 PM for your return flight and you are thousands of miles from home.
It had been a wonderful trip with 24 other friends, family and colleagues. In spite of some cold, windy, wet weather we had enjoyed our visit to Israel. The Holy Land, as it is often called, is a fascinating place. Archeologists, anthropologists, historians, political scientists, agriculturists, environmentalists, and theologians can explore thousands of years of civilization within a small land area.
For most Christians, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is an experience that is difficult to describe. Our faith has its roots there. It was there that Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The footprints of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still evident in many places. David, the shepherd boy king, ruled there. Much of the biblical narrative took place in that region. It is the place where Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected.
In the week before arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for our return flight, we had journeyed through the land from the borders of Syria and Lebanon to the southern end of the Dead Sea. We stood on the site of the oldest city in the world, visited Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea where the Apostle Paul appeared before King Agrippa before being shipped to Rome, walked where Jesus walked and taught throughout the Galilee, visited the place where Mary gave birth to the Son of God and some of the places where he spent his last days. Just hours earlier we had celebrated Holy Communion in a sacred site that commemorates the resurrection of our Savior.
We were exhausted and exhilarated as this spiritual pilgrimage was near its end. Ready to get home. Ready to rest and allow everything we had seen and heard be absorbed into our minds and spirits. We were not ready to hear, "Your flight has been canceled."
After a few minutes of anxiety we began the process of rebooking our flight. Of course, there are 300 other passengers with the same idea. To say it was chaos would be an understatement. Nevertheless after considerable effort on the part of the airline employees we were escorted to another airline's ticket counter to get boarding passes for an alternative flight.
Crisis averted. Almost.
Before reaching the ticket counter we were informed that the flight was full and no more passengers could be boarded. When I attempted to find out what was happening and what options were now available, the airline representative at the front of the line responded with anger and frustration (which I understood but did not appreciate at the moment).
At that point Nathalie Ben David, supervisor for Delta Airlines with whom our original flight had been scheduled, arrived. She immediately brought calm to the situation and assured all of us that she was going to help. Over the next two or three hours she explored several alternatives and kept us fully informed. Finally the decision was made that we would take an early morning flight on another airline connecting with a Delta flight in Europe for our last leg of the journey back to Atlanta.
The patience exhibited and the care given by Ms. Ben David redeemed the situation. No one wanted to spend the night in the airport but some things are unavoidable. We certainly did not want to fly in an unsafe plane. This kind woman understood customer care.
I wonder when I am involved in unpleasant or difficult situations, do I bring calm and stability or do I add to the chaos and confusion? When we gather in corporate worship we often are invited to "pass the peace." We exchange the words: "The peace of Christ be with you." And the response is "And also with you."
As appropriate as that exchange is when we are worshipping in the sanctuary, I think it is also our task and opportunity to offer and receive the gift of peace at other times as well. Lord, help us to acknowledge that you are always with us and your presence is peace!
P.S. Although it has been less than two weeks since we returned, I am ready to go back to the Holy Land. Why don't you join us February 11-20, 2013? Contact me and I will send details.
Posted with permission from the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. Please visit ngumc.org for more information.