Life Above - January 2018

In the mid-1800’s, a 40-year-old man named Elisha Otis was called upon to convert an abandoned Yonkers, New York sawmill into a factory which made bed frames. The work required laborers to walk up and down multiple staircases many times a day. Otis, an inveterate tinkerer and innovative thinker, designed something he called a "safety elevator” which had a special braking mechanism on it preventing a hoisted platform from falling to the ground even should its rope or cable break. With the help of his sons, he began manufacturing the device commercially, but neither building owners nor the general public yet trusted his invention.

Enter noted American entrepreneur and showman, P.T. Barnum, who, in conjunction with his persevering friend Otis, hatched an idea for a public demonstration of the “Safety Elevator” at the 1854 World’s Fair held within the Crystal Palace in New York City in May, 1854. Under Barnum’s orchestration, Otis boarded an open elevator platform installed at the center of the exposition hall. After the elevator had been hoisted high above the crowd, Otis called out for a man stationed along a catwalk in the rafters to slash the elevator’s cable with a large axe.

As the blade was raised then swung, horrified onlookers watched fully expecting the elevator with its foolishly intrepid passenger to plummet under the command of gravity to the floor of the hall. Dramatically though, Otis’ safety brake stubbornly bit, and the elevator came to an abrupt halt, having fallen less than a foot. The presentation was a sensation and within two years, Otis had sold 27 elevators.

Before 1850 there were almost no buildings over six stories tall. Over the next generation, with the advent of the passenger elevator coupled with the introduction of steel frame construction, dozens of tall, sky-scraping buildings began to rise all over the world.

Travel high above the ground is now something we do with regularity, but if we truly think about it, our routine ascension into the sky is a sort of miracle. Physically, we have the privilege of seeing things from a lofty perspective, which people before the time of Elisha Otis could scarcely imagine. To look out from the top floor of a towering skyscraper, to consider a great metropolitan vista from above, pulls us away psychologically from the myopia of our own lives to see things in a new way. Angles of light are perceived differently. Locations, direction, and connections below can be seen from on high with enormous clarity, a new order, and superior comprehension. There’s a majesty in distance and a simple wonder in the afar.

As it is in the physical world, so it is in the spiritual, as well. In an extraordinary way, we have a similar opportunity to arise routinely, to elevate ourselves on a weekly basis, within the transformative experience of worship each Sunday together. This means of ascension is a sort of miracle, as well. However, just like rising high above the ground by elevator, we often take our opportunity to find elevation through worship for granted.

However, if we avail ourselves of the opportunity to be in worship with one another more and more often, we’ll no doubt more commonly rise above the tyranny of the granular nature of everyday existence to find a different sort of life above, one which presents us with the broad and lengthy beauty of God’s world, and opportunities to serve in it in a new way.

We want to tap deeply into this sense of elevation Sunday mornings in January as we start a new series called, “Life Above.” During these weeks, we’ll seek a higher experience of life through a loftier understanding of God’s Creation (January 7), of Christ (January 14), of the Church (January 21), and of our future (January 28). We hope you’re here each Sunday as these messages build toward our annual “State of the Church” presentation beginning at 12:30 on January 28 in the Fellowship Hall.

Don’t miss a single Sunday in January as we set a bright new tone for the year, one of durable optimism, elevation, and joy such that we experience together in 2018— Life Above.

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