Pastor Bill Kirkemo
It’s been called the Miracle on the Hudson. On January 15, 2009 US Airways flight 1549 rose off the tarmac of LaGuardia Airport in New York City and within two minutes of takeoff, ran into a flock of Canadian geese. One goose being sucked into a jet engine is problematic, a whole flock of geese is disastrous. Immediately both engines were severely damaged and lost power, just as the plane was about to head over the Bronx, one of the most heavily populated parts of the city.
However, instead of crashing into the Bronx and killing all aboard as well as scores on the ground, the plane landed on the Hudson River. And, not only did the plane land on water, but it landed in such a way that everyone on that plane was able to exit the plane safely. And not only did the plane safely land on a river and everyone able to safely get out of the plane, Captain Sullenberger had time to walk the plane aisle a couple of times to make sure everyone was off the plane before he himself exited the plane. A miracle on the Hudson, right?
Actually, no. This in fact was not only not a miracle, it is the complete opposite of a miracle. A miracle is when God breaks in, and with divine power does the humanly impossible.
Let me tell you what happened on flight 1549 immediately after it ran into a flock of geese. Captain “Sully” and his copilot immediately made several major decisions and took several vital actions:
● Recognizing they could not make it back to LaGuardia or any other local airport, nor safely land the plane on a local highway without great danger to those on the plane or the ground, they recognized their only option was a water landing on the Hudson River.
● After making that decision, they
○ Shut down the engines
○ Set the speed of the plan to prepare for a gliding landing
○ Raised the nose of the plane to maintain speed
○ Disconnected the autopilot and overrode the flight management system
○ Activated the “ditch” system, which closed all vents and valves to make the plane as airtight as possible
○ Made a fast left-hand turn so the plane would be landing with the flow of the river and not against the flow of the river
● They had to do all this on only the battery-operated systems and the emergency generator since they had cut power to the engines.
● After making this sharp left-hand turn without engine power, they then had to straighten the plane so that it would land level and not have one of the wings hit the water first.
● With the plane level they had to then raise the nose more, but not too high so that the plane would land straight and flat on the water.
Now, do you know what is so interesting about all these actions Captain Sully and his co-pilot made that avoided disaster? Each one of these actions had been planned, studied, and practiced hundreds of times over the course of Captain Sully’s career. In fact, not only had Captain Sully practiced every one of these actions countless times over his years as a pilot, he was himself a glider instructor. (NT Wright, After You Believe, pp. 18-21)
If I were in the pilot’s seat on the flight and safely landed it into the Hudson River, that would be a miracle - because it would only be by the power of God it could have happened. For Captain Sully, it was instead the courageous performance of all the practicing and preparing and planning he had done over the years of handling “worst-case” scenarios.
But lest you think I’m trying to minimize this wonderful Miracle on the Hudson, I am trying to do just the opposite. I instead want to use it as a picture of what it means to demonstrate the Gift of the Spirit of Faithfulness. For a disciple of Jesus Christ is one who so faithfully practices, plans, and prepares for living the Christian life that when a crisis arises, they are not left powerless and confused and at a loss. Instead, through their years of prayer, scripture study, faithful worship, and fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, God has been so forming them into the image of Jesus that they are able to faithfully respond to the crisis exactly as Jesus would respond.
A person with the fruit of faithfulness is not one who has been supernaturally gifted by God with faithfulness. Instead, by receiving and putting into practice the love and faithfulness they have received from God in practical ways, they have been practicing faithfulness so much that they become people with the fruit of Faithfulness. Just like Captain Sully, they have trained and practiced so much that when a crisis arises that requires faithfulness, faithfulness is just their natural reaction.
Has faithfulness become your natural reaction?