A Muslim, A Catholic and a Presbyterian walk into a bar . . .
No, wait . . . I mean a chapel! [a look back to 2019 that made me smile]
But wait . . . first, this. When I travelled to Israel in 2018 with CUFI1 and a couple dozen ministers from across the USA, I learned a lot, and met a man who became my friend. Having reached out to him about his congregants possibly joining my Israel tour, I was honored to teach a Sunday School class at First Presbyterian . . . but I had to fly a couple thousand miles to do it-to Edmond, Oklahoma. And it was great. [believe it or not, a number of those folks did go to Israel with me, and I hold them close to my heart today]
Returning to Dallas-Fortworth Airport on Sunday evening, I went to scope out my departure gate, when I heard an overhead announcement: "There will be a chapel service across from Gate D-40 starting at 7:00 pm." 'Wait, what? A chapel service at the airport? Who has heard of such a thing?' Having some time before my flight, I decided to attend.
Enter the Muslim, the Catholic and a few other stragglers, including yours truly.
I walked into the smallish non-descript area that had a wall of quasi-stained glass and took a seat, the only one then occupied. No matter, I wanted to see what happened. An older-looking man, an airport employee - (maybe a mechanic?) - walked in and took off his shoes, opened an obviously familiar cubby in the back, retrieved a colorful carpet with fringe on either end, unrolled it and took to his knees behind my back row seat, murmuring many "Allahs" in his time of prayer. Soon after, another sharply dressed young man did the same thing next to the first, orienting his carpet similarly. Hmmm... Emboldened, I got out of my chair and went to retrieve a Bible from among many holy books on the shelves and sat down again. Shortly thereafter, the first got up, told the younger man he was proud of him, then turning to me with a wide smile and a 'good bye,' went back to work.
Just then, a conservative-looking man clad in a navy blazer embellished with DFW-Chaplain walked in and welcomed me. He educated me on the purpose of the airport chaplains and the services offered to vets, employees, travelers and so on. What a fantastic notion!
My new chaplain friend said folks were sure to join us, but we started on time anyway - just the two of us singing 'Blessed be the Name' a la Matt Redman via his i-phone with printed words from the bulletin. I'm not positive, but I think the Lord smiled. No, I am positive ... he did.
Besides the band, I'm not sure what a motley crew is, but I think we might have been one. Eventually, as folks straggled in, we were twelve-all different makes and models, a couple blessing themselves as they took their seats. Chaplain David could have preached the same sermon to thousands. Truly. At his bidding, I opened to Matthew chapter six with the familiar words of the Lord's Prayer. The passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%206%3A5-14&...
He made a few simple but earth-shattering points I would like to share.
First, three times in this short passage Jesus used the words, "When you pray..." Not if we pray, but when because we are meant to communicate with God regularly. Second, we do not pray to a far-off, distant, impersonal God, but one that Jesus instructed us to call our Father. Not new to me, not news to me, but refreshing nonetheless; the Maker of the Universe calls me daughter, he calls you son ...yes, he calls you daughter!
We pray thy kingdom come in the prayer we recite, right? Every time the fruit of the Holy Spirit is expressed by us toward another - that is to say, when we express true love, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness,2 etc., we bring the Kingdom to earth. So let's do it.
And one day we know God's kingdom will be established forever, described in Revelation chapter 21, such that "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away."3 And God's kingdom? It will be beautiful. (Don't believe me? Look up Revelation chapter 21 in your Bible)
Finally, Chaplain David reminded us that we ought be certain to make time for introspection--to seek God's forgiveness, to look inside ourselves and invite God to have a peek as well - to point out where we might have sin to confess, where we might be falling short.
And after the "Amen"? Well, I went back to Gate 40, boarded my airplane for home, and typed this while flying over Colorado. Bye bye, Texas, and Chaplain David. See you again, Oklahoma.
A chapel service in the airport . . . who knew?
Be encouraged. Talk to your Father,
1 - CUFI = Christians United For Israel - https://www.cufi.org
- the trip was a military, political and cultural education and a charge for us to bring Christians back to the Land
2 - Galatians 5.22-23a - the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
3 - Revelation 21.4