In the church calendar, the year ends with today, Reign of Christ Sunday and begins with next week’s First Sunday in Advent. These Sundays focus our attention on the central question of our faith, “Who is Jesus Christ?” Perhaps the most beautiful words written in answer to this question were written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation… (Col. 1:15).” Paul’s words are beautiful, glorious. More glorious still are those moments in our lives when those words come alive. On July 19, 1989, Rev. Gregory Clapper was going to see the movie “Peter Pan” with his wife and two daughters in Sioux City, Iowa. As they pulled into the mall, he noticed a plane flying low heading for a nearby airport. Just as he pulled into a space in the parking lot, he saw a thick line of black smoke rise from the direction of the airport. United Airlines Flight 232 had crashed. Rev. Clapper, an Air National Guard chaplain, left his family at the movie and headed for the airport.
When he arrived at the airport only minutes after the tragedy occurred, we can only imagine the sights that greeted him on that airport tarmac – the bodies of victims, bleeding survivors, crying caretakers – a chaos of hurt and pain and grief. But there was one sight in particular… There were two bodies, burned beyond recognition. One, a smaller body, the other, larger, with its arms around the smaller. It was a father, holding his small son, even in death offering reassurance and comfort. Rev. Clapper had arrived at the mysterious heart of the Christian faith. This father was Jesus Christ, who, on the cross, threw his arms around each and every one of us to share our fear, our hurt, our disappointment, even our death. “Who is Jesus Christ?” On a bloody tarmac in Iowa, Rev. Clapper found the answer to this question.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19-20).”
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides