Last night as the picturesque sunset sparkled rainbow colors over the calm water and the birds fluttered about, the rays of light bounced gold off of the few clouds in the sky. Some of these clouds were in long, straight lines- the contrails of airplanes. A few moments after an airplane would fly overhead, the pristine silence of the land was interrupted by the distinct sound of airplane engines and flight. Somewhere, 30,000+ feet above our heads sat passengers likely sleeping or doing some kind of work or reading. They repeat the endless cycle of passing not through an area, but over and past it without taking in the beauty. More often than not, their destination lies somewhere far beyond our little enclave of peace sitting comfortably on the shores of Lake Sakakawea. We are a flyover state.
The idea behind a flyover state is quite simple: there are places that people want to go, and there are places people don’t want to go. Often the latter lies between the former. The great plains cover an expanse of area quite important to the US economy, but quite unimportant to the daily rituals of the average American. Flyover states are meant to be ‘flown over’ as quickly as possible in order to get somewhere where things actually happen.
People of flyover states are rarely profiled in national media (unless there is a tragedy or a September blizzard), are often not given much of a voice in large-scale decision making (unless involving agriculture/ranching or oil, gas, and mining), and are much like the garbage person or janitor: we often don’t recognize all that they do until a job is left unfinished or unsatisfactory. Flyover states are the backbone that people don’t worry about until they need a chiropractor.
Jesus was a flyover state kind of guy. Reading through the gospels, we don’t see a Jesus that seeks out the attention-getters and popular places all the time. Yes, Jesus did visit the temple and speak with local elites and people of the law, but he also spent considerable time with those that were not deemed to be all that special. Even from the start with his birth in Bethlehem and the nearby shepherds who came to see (see Luke 2:1-20), to his visit with a Samaritan woman near the town of Sychar (see John 4:1-26), to his healing of many people with all kids of different ailments, we see that Jesus seeks out not only the flyover areas, but the flyover people.
The best example of this is Jesus’ teaching that we know as the Good Samaritan story (see Luke 10:25-37). In this parable, Jesus tells of man who was travelling and happened upon people who stole from him and intensely beat him. Twice after important persons passed by without offering help, while a flyover person identified as a Samaritan not only helped him, but took him to a safe place and offered to pay his stay. Jesus tells us in this story that the flyover people are called to be served and loved as well, even though our world tends to ignore and push them away.
Where are the flyover places in your life? Who are the flyover people in your life? When you identify those places and people, what keeps you back from serving and loving?
Camp of the Cross sits miles from nowhere, if you believe that. It also sits in the center of importance, if you believe that. One of the beliefs of Camp of the Cross is that Jesus’ sacrifice offers forgiveness to everyone, including those rejected by society. We sit in a flyover place and offer a place of peace, love, and forgiveness to all, including the flyovers. That doesn’t keep smiles from filling up the parking lot on Summer Sunday; it doesn’t keep families from returning year after year- first as campers, then with their own kids; it doesn’t keep the Camp from offering a place of respite and spiritual growth to Pastors who come as chaplains; and it certainly doesn’t keep Jesus’ presence from being here all year round. Just ask the flyovers- they know.