Sermon of the Week
Words to Build a Life On:
Nothing Can Separate You.
If you type in the phrase “Australian daredevil”
into your favorite search engine,
Bing or Google might answer back: Felix Baumgartner.[i]
Felix is rather extraordinary.
On Sunday morning, October 14th, 2012,
exactly 65 years to the day that Chuck Yeager
first broke the sound barrier
in his experimental, rocket-powered airplane
Felix climbed into a helium-filled balloon
and took it up to a height of 128,100 feet.[ii]
Now, to put that into context for you,
128000 feet is several times higher than commercial airliners ordinarily fly.
In fact, the highest that a jet aircraft has ever flown,
according to extremetech.com, is 123,500 feet,
so this was 5000 feet above that.[iii]
By comparison, another daredevil, the film maker James Cameron
went to the so-called lowest point on earth that same year, in 2012
diving seven miles to the bottom of the Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.[iv]
Baumgartner’s balloon climb, when you do the math,
was three times higher.
Extremetech noted that the climb up was the cushy part.
He had a climate-controlled pod that was kind of like a race-car cockpit
made of fiberglass and steel
and a cage of something called chromium-molybdenum
to help protect the occupant from the -70 degree temperatures outside.
But on that Sunday morning, October 14th, 2012
not only did Felix go up that high
but he also climbed out of that cushy climate-controlled pod
and fell back to earth.
How long do you think it takes to fall to earth from 21 miles above it?
It lasted 9 minutes and 9 seconds
with an astonishing 4 minutes and 22 seconds of that in what they call free fall
smashing the speed of sound
the way Chuck Yeager did, but Chuck had a jet engine to help him.
And then, thankfully, Felix pulled the cord on his massive parachute
and safely landed outside of Roswell, New Mexico.
Felix broke all sorts of world records with the stunt.
–Highest manned balloon flight.
–If he had just held out 14 more seconds he would also have set the record for
the longest free-fall time ever,
but really, who can blame him.
You might assume that those records were going to stand forever
But no, just two years later, Google’s then vice-president Alan Eustice
Decided “hey, why don’t I try that”
And went almost a mile higher, 135000 feet,
and made his own incredible free fall.[v]
Now: I don’t really know why Felix Baumgartner or Alan Eustice
would do such a thing.
You’re not getting me near one of those balloons.
But I’m glad that they didn’t pass out,
that their parachutes opened,
that they survived.
I’m not sure it matters whether you’re talking about a zip line,
a paltry 100 feet or so above a cliff face,
or jumping out of your high tech pod 22 miles up there
the possibility of death was apparently not, to them, a deterrent and they jumped.
They had tested their equipment. They did the math and knew the science.
But still: any time you do that, it’s a leap of faith.
They trusted, and they jumped, and they made it.
On the Tuesday after Felix’s incredible jump
One newspaper asked its readers:
“what stunt would you do, if you knew you would survive?”[vi]
On the one hand, that’s an interesting question to think about.
What would you do?
Go diving in shark infested waters
Buy a Harley
Go run off and live in the desert for a while
Wear a Chiefs jersey to Denver’s Mile High Stadium?
I think knowing that I would survive could give me courage, you know
a sort of attitude: a different outlook on life.
It’s a helpful question:
What would you do if you knew you’d be ok?
How would you live your life differently?
And on the other hand:
sometimes I wonder about using such superlative illustrations
of humanity pushing the boundaries.
It is amazing, to be sure,
what some people do:
climbing to great heights
scaling amazing mountains. Such bravery is inspiring to so many of us.
Some people in this very congregation have done similar amazing things.
At the same time,
I’m not sure they’re THAT much more remarkable, in the end,
–than taking a deep breath and
walking through the threshold of your first adult job…
–or letting your kid get wheeled off to her first surgery
and not being able to do anything about it but wait…
–or waking up and getting out of bed
the first day after your spouse has passed away…
–or keeping yourself together, somehow,
after the pain of something horrible done to you resurfaces again.
That’s every much a leap of faith, I’m sure of it. [Read more…]