Stories of awkward moments, desired escapes, and connecting with the divine.
Are you familiar with the Southwest Airlines Wanna Get Away tv commercials? The ads debuted in 1998 and ran about a decade. They were popular enough that Southwest relaunched the series a couple of years ago, new ones are still coming out. The plot is the same for each 30-second spot, a person finds themselves in the middle of a situation they’d rather not be in. Ads end with that lone question, Wanna Get Away? The idea is that, to solve your problems we can look to the heavens, or at least look to the airlines. And those airplanes helps us get away, taking us to some distant land far from our problems.
I’ll confess I love these commercials, they show bizarre circumstances, and many are really kinda funny. Here are a few personal favorites:
A businessman walks to the curb and opens what he thinks is a cab door, getting in as he casually talks on his cell phone. The driver, who looks kind of scruffy, turns around and glares at him. A second later two more men wearing ski masks also get in the back seat, surrounding him. As the car speeds off the businessman finds himself, completely by accident, in the middle of a bank robbery getaway. Oh the danger! Wanna Get Away? I would.
Here’s another. Two guys, sitting on the couch are playing a baseball video game. One shows the other how the controller will mimic your exact motion, swinging the controller like a bat. The friend then accidentally throws his controller, just like a baseball, at the tv screen. The screen breaks, and then falls right off the wall, destroying it. Dude, what were you thinking, I can almost hear one guy asking the other. Who’s gonna pay for this? Wanna Get Away?
Then there’s the girl, who is a guest at someone else’s house, and in the bathroom, standing looking in the mirror. On a whim she decides to open the medicine cabinet to snoop around. As she pulls out some ointment to look at it more closely all the glass shelves loudly crash to the ground. She looks around sheepishly, someone must have heard all that noise. How embarrassing! Wanna Get Away?
Finally, and this is my absolute favorite, a man in a formal suit, wearing a brilliant medallion and bowtie around his neck walks into a high-society event; everyone turns their heads in his direction. Several women, also dressed to impress, see him and smile, hoping to make a connection. But he ignores them. Instead he sees what appears to be a blond-haired woman sitting across the room with her back turned to him. The man then takes two glasses of champagne and walks over to say hello, all while multiple women look on. But it turns out this blonde-haired woman he’s approaching isn’t a woman at all, it’s a golden retriever dog. The women looking on, still trying to be polite, attempt to hide their laughter. The orchestra players in the room try not to snicker and begin to fumble their music. What a scene! There goes this dashing man’s chance at love. Wanna Get Away? He sure did.
Here and Now
This notion, that to escape our problems that sometimes we need to run from them, to a better, distant place, often it pops up in our religious culture too.
When a loved one dies, and we hear words of comfort that they’re in a better place, that says something. It’s a statement not just about heaven but about earth. Of course our divine destination is a better place, we look forward to it. But perhaps, as we gaze to the heavens for the divine, we also lose sight of the divine right in front of us.
And when you hear talk of the end-times, that things are worse than they have ever been before, and people prognosticate about when Christ will return, that too assumes something. It assumes we wanna get away from the problems in the here and now, so much so that some would prefer this world to simply vanish. And it assumes, perhaps, when we long for Christ’s return that his presence isn’t already among us. But we know better.
Christian writer and speaker Shane Claiborne puts this wanna get away heavenly perspective like this, saying:
“We can tell the world there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death.”
Bread of Life
Tonite our confirmation youth talk about communion, what it means to take and eat. And our text from John 6 reflects on just that. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus says, “come down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will life forever; and the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Notice where Jesus is in the text. He’s here, come down from heaven. Meeting us, right where we’re at. We don’t have to get away to encounter Christ. The divine presence is already among us.
Notice what Jesus is in the text. He’s the bread of life, the living bread. Physically present, through communion, in the bread and the wine. He is something we can become one with, in the flesh. Taste and see, our communion liturgy says, that the Lord is good.
Notice who Jesus is for in the text. “The bread I will give, for the world, is my flesh” he says. It’s hard not to be reminded of that famous scripture verse a few chapters before this text, John 3:16, that begins for God so loved the world…
So often when life gets tough it’s natural for us to wanna get away, to put some distance between us and our problems. As Americans we pride ourselves in our rugged individualism. If we’ve got problems – and that assumes we’re brave enough to admit we do – we’re the ones to fix them. We’re the ones that take action. We’re the ones that take flight to the heavens that we wanna get away to, either on earth or beyond.
But scripture suggests otherwise. Jesus is here, come down from heaven already. Jesus is the one that’s taken the action. He’s already taken flight, destination us. And our problems? They’ve been fixed through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
And, lest we forget that, Jesus reminds us of his presence, in the bread and in the cup of communion. With us no matter how great or awful life may be. And even better Christ surrounds us with fellow faith travelers, just like the people you see here today. People ready and willing to support you on your journey.
So the next time you wanna get away I ask you to remember. Remember Christ is here, already. Remember Christ is for you. Remember Christ is for everyone. And remember, that, with fellow Christ-followers at your side, in the best of times, and in the worst of times, you are never, never alone. Amen.