The sermon on the plane

On a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I started to wonder : What would it have been like for … Continued

On a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I started to wonder
: What would it have been like for Jesus and the disciples to deal with the stresses and strains of air travel?

1 Immediately Jesus left for Galilee with his disciples, via Newark. For their vacation in New York was finished; and they had spent all that they had on Broadway shows, including “The Book of Mormon.” 2 “Lord,” said the disciples, “Why must we go to Newark and not JFK? For we long to fly JetBlue and earn miles.” 3”Amen, amen,” said Jesus, “The one who does not fly JetBlue is like a fool who builds his house on sand or some other similarly viscous substance upon which one should not build houses. JetBlue has comfortable seats and free movies. Not even the birds of the air have that. 4 Unless, of course, you’re going to the Holy Land, where JetBlue does not yet go. In that case, all should take Continental from Newark to Tel Aviv. Let those who have ears listen!” 5 It was now the first watch of the night.

6 When they arrived in Newark, Jesus and the disciples approached the curbside check-in. 7 For Jesus knew that there would be great multitudes inside the terminal, who would be like sheep without a shepherd. 8 The disciples paid two talents to check their extra bags, and they grieved the loss of their money. “Does not a day have twenty-four hours?” said Philip to the baggage centurion. “And does not a ticket price include baggage?” But the centurion pressed them to pay, not including a drachma for the tip. And the disciples grew angrier. The man asked Jesus, “Have you no bags to check?” 9 Jesus answered him, “Carry no money belt, no bag and no shoes for your journey!” 10 The man was amazed and said, “Truly, you are a frequent flyer!” Immediately the disciples and Jesus entered the waiting area, and all waited to board the plane. For it was now time.

2 In the second watch of the night, the Continental herald proclaimed the good news of the boarding. But she announced only the high numbers. “Teacher,” said Thomas, “Why aren’t we boarding first? Do we not have those seats in the front of the plane?” 2 Jesus said, “Those in the back will board before we do. For the last shall be first.” The disciples stayed and watched with Jesus, who watched CNN. “Did you know Anderson Cooper has his own daytime talk show now?” said James, the brother of Jesus, who also watched Piers Morgan when it grew dark. 3 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” said Jesus. “Do you think I wouldn’t know that?”

4 In the next hour they boarded the plane and all found seats, and they were seated among the multitudes. These numbered over 300, including women and children. And there were many children. 5 When the flight began, the disciples began to quarrel among themselves over who got Extra Legroom. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who do not complain on an airplane, for they shall receive free pretzels: ten, twenty, one hundred fold!” 6 Then Jesus asked for more pretzels, for suddenly there were none. (For the crowds had eaten them all.) 7 The disciples grew angry and said, “Lord, how can we endure a 12-hour flight with no pretzels?” 8 “O you of little faith,” said Jesus, “Ask the next air centurion who you meet to give you more pretzels.” 9 The disciples asked and were given enough. After they had eaten their fill, there was enough left to fill a smallish trash bag. “We have never seen this before!” said the disciples.

10 Immediately they began to watch their in-flight movie, which was “Bridesmaids.” 11 “We have never seen this before either,” said Peter. And behold, the disciples enjoyed “Bridesmaids.” 12 “Jesus, that was funny,” said Andrew. Jesus said, “This movie is like new wine that has spent a day in the sun, or like a bird that weaves a net that no one can untangle.” They pondered over what these words might mean. 13 Then they watched “Midnight in Paris.” And then “Transformers III.” For the flight was long.

14 In the third watch of the night, the airplane knew turbulence and the disciples looked to Jesus, who was asleep in his seat. 15 “Lord,” said Peter, “Do you not care about us? We are perishing!” Immediately Jesus awoke and rebuked the turbulence, and there was a dead calm. The disciples said, “Who is this, then, that even the winds obeys him?” 16 Jesus said, “Why did you doubt? Plus, why did you awaken me? I’m power napping.” 17 And Jesus slept.

18 In the fourth watch, the disciples were awakened by great wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the plane was filled with children; and the children cried, and their parents were anguished. “Jesus, it is noisy,” said Nathanael. “Command the children to stop their cries!” 21 “Nathanael,” said Jesus, “The Son of Man is Lord over the wind and seas, but even he cannot calm children, especially when the plane is taking off and landing. 22 You have heard it said that babies are a curse in the air, but I say to you: to these belong the Kingdom of God. But the next time bring your iPod. Or at least some earplugs.”

3 The flight was finished. It was now day. They left the plane and rejoiced to see the Airport of Ben Gurion. 2 Jesus said, “Let us seek our bags. Then we shall set our faces toward Galilee.” 3. But the disciples were sad, for their vacation was now finished. 4 Peter and his brother Andrew; and James and John, the sons of Zebedee; wished to spend more time at the South Street Seaport. Simon the Zealot wished to spend more time at the 92nd Street Y listening to the pleasant discourse that came from the mouths of all who spoke there. 5 But Nathanael desired only one thing: to see “Bridesmaids” again. “Lord,” he said, “I have never seen anything like the scene where Kristin Wiig destroys the bridal shower party.” “Truly I say to you,” said Jesus. “I have not had that much fun at a wedding since Cana.”

James Martin is a Jesuit priest and author of the new book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.

James Martin SJ
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  • ccnl1

    An updated prayer to tone down the humor:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


  • WmarkW

    Blessed are the pacemakers, for they shall be called aside for wanding and X-ray.

  • eddikon

    You work for an organization that has been involved in criminal activity since its inception. The only thing that separated the Church from its murderous ways was the rise of the secular state based on the principles of the Age of Enlightenment. I fail to see any connection between the Church and the teachings of Jesus. Why should I listen to what you have to say? Clean your house before you lay any claim to moral authority.

  • middleagedfogey

    To the three people who’ve commented: LIGHTEN UP, for pity’s sake. This is meant to be humor, in case you hadn’t noticed!

  • sunbirdwoman

    Father James, this is really funny! It gives WWJD? a whole new meaning. I just wish those angry commenters could appreciate it. For some, I guess, the mere mention of the word “Jesus” is enough to make them lose their sense of humor….
    I’m a Buddhist/Episcopalian, currently on hiatus from dogma and liturgy. I concur that humor is essential to spiritual growth. When we can laugh at our ridiculous human behavior, our faulty understanding and absurd beliefs, not to mention our obviously flawed human institutions, it proves that at some level, we are aware of the existence of something much finer, wiser, more kind and more enduring than our pathetic selves.
    Some call it God.

  • WmarkW

    I guess my humor fell flat.

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