Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver and daredevil, set a couple of new world records on Sunday when he was lifted to the edge of space in a balloon before jumping out. He fell an estimated 24 miles as he set an even more amazing record for speed: an estimated speed of 833 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24. Beyond the significance of this new level of craziness and daring, even the date was historic. The first person to break the speed of sound, US Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager, broke the record on October 14, 1947, exactly 65 years prior. If you did not see the video footage of Baumgartner, I highly recommend it (check it out here). As far as new things go, it is amazing.
However, there is more to the story than new records. Like the story of God's work in the world, there is both the new and the old. The Gospel of Luke opens with God doing a new thing, but the very words used to describe it were of old. Mary, Zechariah, and a host of others are quoting the Old Testament. When the baby comes, one of the best moments features Anna who, who we are told, is 84 years old (Luke 2). It is like the new thing cannot be described without a reminder of the old thing.
It is hard to believe that 65 years has passed since Yeager's first record flight. He is 89 years old now. On this Sunday afternoon, as the young Baumgartner sets a new record, we could easily see Yeager sitting somewhere comfortable, watching and reminiscing. That was hardly the case, however. Yeager was flying. Fast. Again. It is what he does.
Taking off from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, this legend, nearing being a nonagenarian, flew in the second seat of an F-15 for another trip. Exactly 65 years to the moment after he first piloted the Bell X1 jet past the speed of sound, he took the controls and did it again. Imagine. What is especially rich is that his speed on Sunday just slightly edged Baumgartner's. A nod to say, I still have the "Right Stuff."
We see similar acts of wonder all of the time. Of course, we celebrate the new: the newly born, baptized, converted, or joined. But there is something just as amazing about those who have done it before, and go out and do it again. I see such folks every Sunday, and visit with them on the days in between. They do not stop flying through life with faith after their first success. It is what they do. They persevere. I celebrate them. They are witnesses, like those first who appeared in the Gospels, to the God who continues to do new things with each of us.
Grace and Peace, Scott