Out of the Depths We Cry

Sermon Preached the Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost + October 17, 2010

Jesus tells them about their need to pray always and not lose heart, and then tells a parable of the widow and the unjust judge.  But Perhaps, Jesus could have told them a parable of Chilean miners…

What a week it has been watching the miners being pulled out of the pit one by one.  I could not help but think about this physical prayer, that act of rescue accompanied by the millions of prayers lifted by believers, and even those who question or doubt around the world.  This good news covered by all corners of the press connected for me how we are drawn to pray always and not lose heart during crises.

  • What does it mean for you to be persistent in prayer and hopeful when it seems everything in life is working against you?
  • What does it mean to be persistent and hopeful as you pray for others and await God’s answer for them?
  • What is the link here between persistence and justice in the case of the trapped miners?  And finally as Luke asks…
  • What kind of faith will the Son of Man find on earth when he returns?

So Luke gives us another story this week of Jesus teaching on the way to Jerusalem, a simple sounding parable, but one where who the characters are, makes all the difference.  Parables are after all, stories that Jesus tells to answer the question What is the kingdom of God like?  There is always something strange about a parable, something not quite like the way things are in real life…

  • In this one, many initially see the judge as God and themselves as the widow seeking justice.
  • However, I think we play the role of the judge and God is the widow.
  • Think about how we often tend to judge others…
  • Think about how it is God who persistently keeps coming to us.

During Jesus’ time a widow had no legal status and would have been utterly powerless.  During that tie the story tells us (at two different places) that the judge sees himself above the law and he has no respect for God or the people he is called to provide judgement for.  So we have this odd story, almost absurd, but Jesus likely tells it so that it would be retold and so we would wrestle with its meaning.

So what might Jesus be teaching the small group of disciples here?  That they (and we as well) can know how much more our loving God will hear and answer the prayers of the faithful, people of the promise, you and me by sending Christ again to judge.  God will grant justice soon after the Son of Man comes.  And even though we do not know when he will come, we  should not lose heart and our living filled with persistent prayer.  But Jesus wonders, will anyone still be faithful then, or will we all be preoccupied by the busyness of our lives?

For me and I think for most believers, we need little encouragement to pray continuously, especially when we find ourselves in difficult situations.  What is more common however, is a lack of prayer most days and a lack of faith when life is good.  Peter Woods who blogs as “The Listening Hermit” reminds that “Faith doesn’t fix things as much as it gives us the capacity and courage to bear the unbearable.”  But how are we who receive faith from God alone, to be persistent even when we are not in difficult situations?

+          +          +

Back to the good news from Chile this week and why so many around the world have been so interested in it.  Perhaps deep within each of us, we long for the assurance that when we are down, buried in the muck of our lives, living without hope, that there is a possibility for escape, rescue, being saved from all the pain, worry and doubt.  Of course we as believers, we who follow Christ know that there is one escape from the muck of our lives, one hope, one rescuer, one savior for all the pain, worry and doubt.

But for the miners including Omar Reygadas, a great-grandfather four times over, and Jimmy Sanchez the 19-year-old whose last child was born while he was trapped, these two and thirty-one others made-up the band of brothers who survived more than three months trapped underground, made history Wednesday as they (and their private lives) tumbled out into the light.

Mario Gomez, the oldest at 63 has spent a half-century working the mines.  His letter to his wife Lila and shared by the President of Chile during the ordeal was filled with faith and determination.  It showed the world the miners were holding strong and read,

Even if we have to wait months to communicate…I want to tell everyone that I’m good and we’ll surely come out okay, patience and faith.  God is great and the help of God is going to make it possible to leave this mine alive.”

Jose Henriquez, 56 turned to his faith while he was underground, forming a prayer group that met several times a day, and asked for 33 Bibles to be sent down the narrow supply passage when it was opened.

Mario Sepulveda, 40 the second miner to be saved said:  “I have been with God and with the devil,” summing up his ordeal and miraculous rescue.  He added, “I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand.  I always knew God would get us out of there.”

How often I wonder did these miners lose hope during this remarkable experience… to feel that the government, the mining company, maybe their families and friends, or even God had abandoned them… perhaps unjust judges all, seemingly indifferent to their cries for a just release from their circumstances those ‘unjust judges’ had put them in, and allowed them to stay trapped in?

Psychologist James Thompson said that “The Chilean miners went through sheer hell for 17 days before they were found, 52 days of modified hell as they were rescued, and must now feel they are in heaven.  There will be more difficulties in readjusting to normal life for those miners who held on to the notion that death would win rather than those who held on to hope during their ordeal.”  Lots of new life images.  Lots of God’s work, our hands images… of rescue workers and families and friends praying persistently… 

When the men began to come out, you may have noticed that they wore t-shirts with Psalm 95 verse 4 over their green overalls…

In his hand are the depths of the Earth and the mountain peaks belong to him.

They had them because rescuers had been able to share them and one brave rescuer, Manuel Gonzales had gone down in order for the others to come up.  Manuel is downplaying his role as hero, but his selfless act showed the miners that their rescue was possible.

Lots of images that remind us of Jesus as he did essentially the same thing for us… 

  • Jesus lived on earth where he connected with people like you and me who felt trapped, burdened by sin, and stuck in dark places, unable to escape.  
  • Jesus was with the miners in the darkness of their experience and many of the 33 miners shared that there really were 34 of them… Jesus, Emanuel, God with us and fully present with them. 
  • Jesus saved us from the muck and darkness of our sins, no matter how deep the pit. 
  • Jesus was raised to show us that our own resurrection is possible.

So what are we to do in the face of doubt and despair?  When we cannot find comfort and hope in our darkness?  We can come to this place to hear God’s story and how in love Jesus joins us ion our wrestling.  But we who wrestle with the challenges of life each day, who have been washed in these waters and fed at this table, can live in the assurance of the Resurrection even when our deepest struggles remain.  Thanks be to God!

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