I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. – (John 17:22 NIV). On a cold January day in 2009, US Airways flight 1549 with 150 passengers and five crew members on board was struck by birds, causing the engine to flame out. Air traffic controllers recommended to Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger possible landing sites, even suggesting he return to LaGuardia Airport.
With millions of people on the right in New York and on the left in New Jersey, Capt. Sullenberger quickly replied, “No, we’re going into the Hudson” river.
The flight recording of the conversation reveals that the traffic controllers responded, “Say again. To which, he calmly replied, “We’re going to be in the Hudson.” The controllers were baffled for a minute, saying among themselves, “What did he say? I think he said, ‘We’re going to be in the Hudson.’”
Captain “Sully,” as the pilot came to be quickly called, didn’t hesitate to make a gutsy call.
In an interview with television personality Katie Couric, Captain Sully was asked, “When the engines flamed out, did you pray?” He replied, “No, there wasn’t time but I’m sure the passengers did.” In his calm statement to the controllers, “We’re going to be in the Hudson,” he spoke words of life in a crisis situation, not words of death. In effect, he was confident enough in his faith to tell the controllers, “Come get us. We’ll be waiting for you.”
In the end, not one life was lost on that flight. All 155 passengers and crew were OK and the flight attendants got glory for their roles in following Captain Scully’s instructions and for handling a swift and safe evacuation. It took guts by all and, in the end, it brought glory to Captain Sully and to the crew.
Captain Sully made a courageous call then and the incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
The point is that, when we show courage, we get glory and, ultimately, the glory gets passed on to God.
We all have heard the old saying, “No guts no glory,” but many of us hesitate to make gutsy calls. Some do not because they fear being seen as egotistical. But his years of flight experience, calm confidence and the lack of a safe alternative on this flight went on to make just such a call.
The focus of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-26 is for His believers to have glory. He explains why and how we can come to get glory. After uttering a similar prayer earlier for His Disciples, some of them, according to John 17:1-11, believed that prayer was only for the apostles to have the same testimony about Him, that it was in order for them to preach a more harmonious Gospel message, which, as we all know, is still the struggle today.
But goes on to say that Jesus prayed specifically for all believers to have glory and to be united in our work together.
From Christ’s entire prayer in John 17, we can learn a lot about glory. A careful reading reveals that Jesus implied God gets no glory if we don’t first get glory ourselves. Through our courageous, knowledgeable and calm Christian actions, our initial glory ultimately gets passed on to God.
The over-arching lesson is that, next to our purity, Christ wants our unity. Why? Because the wisdom from above is, first, pure, then peaceable. Christian fellowship should be friendly and peaceable.
Note just whom the prayer includes: “Not these only” (the disciples, the 70 and the others) “but all those who shall believe in Me through their words” (John 17:20) – words preached by them or written by them or enacted by them.
Such was the case with Captain Sully. In his actions was revealed a faith that didn’t waver.
Why does Jesus say, “I am praying for all to have my glory”? He does so because he wants our oneness in prayer to unite us and allow us to get greater benefit from prayer.
He wants oneness in our willingness to love and obey Him, as He loved and obeyed God. This allows us to better love one another and it allows Him to keep His promise to us to send us a Helper (The Holy Spirit).
Such oneness allows those whose mission it is to save lives to also save souls. Christ cares as much for the poor as He does for the rich – all, if they so desire, based on this prayer, can receive glory. And all, if they so choose, can bring Him glory.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org