In 2002, Leonard Sweet ran an interesting column about Rodd Millner, an Australian ex-commando, who was preparing to set a world record by sky-diving from space. Using a pressurized spacesuit Millner intended to ride a balloon to a height of 130,000 feet, at the very edge of the atmosphere. (An altitude more than four times the height of Mount Everest.) Once there, Millner planned to jump and plummet to the earth, reaching a speed of between 700 and 900 miles per hour within a minute of leaping from the balloon.
I am not sure that the jump ever happened, because a recent internet check lists Alan Eustace as the current record holder with a jump of 135,000 feet and did not mention the Millner jump as having being completed. Jumping from such altitudes requires very special equipment and preparation.
When planned, another part of the record would be becoming the first human to break the sound barrier without a vehicle. The good news is that even before the deployment of a parachute a jumper will slow down as he falls. The jumper will reach what’s called “terminal velocity,” a steady speed created by the collision of air molecules with a falling body. At the higher altitude, where the atmosphere is thinner, there are fewer air molecules to bump into, so he/she will be able to achieve a velocity of 900 miles per hour. Fortunately, as the air gets thicker the jumper will slow down, reducing the speed to about 120 miles per hour by the time the parachute is opened at about 5,000 feet. The principle of “terminal velocity” becomes a life-saver that will help a jumper land safe and alive.
The point? When our Lord Jesus aimed for earth 2000 years ago he had a different outcome in mind. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “Although he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.” (2:6-8)
When Jesus hit the earth, he hit it hard. Paul tells us he did not use his divine nature as an opportunity to make a safe landing and easy exit. This past week we celebrated Good Friday and remembered that as Paul declared, Jesus came to bear the cross. The “terminal velocity” that marked Jesus’ decent to earth was humility. Jesus emptied himself and accepted a life of service and obedience to God’s plan. It was also because of this faithful humility that Paul continues to declare, “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)
Humility, having the mind of Christ, is the key to our moving through life at a speed within God’s will. Using the analogy of “terminal velocity” above, humility is created by the collision of God’s Spirit with our own falling bodies, and it keeps our lives and egos from spinning wildly out of control. When we follow the example of Christ by humbling ourselves, and becoming obedient to God’s will, we discover the purpose God has for us.
If we want to experience the true fulfillment and adventure God has planned for us, we need to take the plunge and submit our lives to service. In Brookings there are many places where we can further God’s kingdom through service. The possibilities are endless. May we have the attitude of Christ and join together in the ultimate adventure of life.
Yours in Christ,