Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bethany Bullet - October 26, 2010

It was Thursday, August 5, 2010 and Luis Urzua left his house for work. Little did he know it would be quite some time before he would see his family again? Luis, a mine foreman, and 32 of his fellow miners descended into the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile for a regular day of work. For the miners, every day is filled with danger and this day was no exception. During their shift the mine experienced a collapse; this one was major. About 700,000 tons of rock shifted underground cutting off the 33 miners from escape. No amount of work from the miners would be able to free them. Their only hope of rescue would have to come from the outside. As the news of the collapse spread, so did fear. After two weeks of searching, hope was waning. Many presumed the miners were dead. Then, 17 days after the collapse, hope was restored. A note had been attached to a drill bit taken to the surface, it read, "We are fine in the refuge, the 33 of us." The men were alive. All of them! Soon the families of the trapped miners gathered near the mine at a place now dubbed Camp Hope; to wait for their loved ones, to pray for their safety, and to hope that they would be made right.

While the world stood transfixed on the events taking place on a hillside and under the ground in Chile, many were reminded of a similar story that took place centuries ago and still plays out to this very day.

The New Testament reading for last week from Romans 3 begins to tell the story, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

And from our reading today, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The prison not made of rock, but of disobedience traps humanity under a weight that cannot be moved by our actions. Because of sin we are not right with God. Because of sin we are trapped without hope of escape, cutoff from the LORD.

The miners could have tried to dig their way out. What is 700,000 tons of rock anyway right? They would not have been successful. The miners could have given up. It is hopeless, we are trapped, and there is nothing I can do; but the miners did neither. Instead they showed faith, in the face of the impossible, they held on to hope.

The foreman, Luis Urzua organized the men. Facing sweltering heat, lack of sunlight, and limited rations, the men survived for 17 days before they were given a lifeline from the outside. They were divided into three crews, each with a different task all with the same goal…survival. The men continued to work.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22)

We live in a world that is not right, a world in which separation from God is a reality.
  • Some believe that they can escape on their own merit: as long as I do enough, or pray harder, or go to church more often then God will provide for me.
  • Some have given up hope. Since there is nothing that can be done, or since there is nothing to look forward to, I will just do whatever I want.

Both viewpoints have no hope. If freedom depends on us, we are doomed to be trapped forever.

+ However, righteousness is a gift, given by grace, apprehended by faith, and apart from our works.

+ Sin has imprisoned us, but Jesus has freed us. Our works are nothing – His work is everything for us.

Jesus willingly descended to us. He took on the entrapments of the flesh and the shortcomings of this sinful world. He took on the work of making us right with the Father. It was a plan that was hatched in the infancy of sin, born out of the love of the Father who could not bear to see us trapped forever in the confines of sin.

It was on another hillside, not in Chile, but outside of Jerusalem, where the world stood transfixed at the events taking place. The One, who had come to save, willingly descended to the prison of sin. Jesus Himself was trapped behind a stone. Jesus was sealed behind a rock; but Jesus had a plan of salvation. His work was to defeat the prison of sin and make us right.

Jesus came down so that we could rise. He came not because of what we have done, but because of His love. You see, nothing you can do can cause Him to love you anymore, and nothing you have done could cause Him to love you any less.

When we stop trying to save ourselves can we understand that being made right is by God’s action not ours? As we read in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Martin Luther once said, “We must receive before we can give; before we show mercy, we must receive it from God. We do not lay the first stone. The sheep does not seek the shepherd; the shepherd seeks the sheep.”

The trapped miners in Chile were saved, not by their own efforts, but they did not stop working. As they continued to do the tasks of the day they kept holding on to hope and relying on their faith. Included in the supplies sent down to the miners were Bibles. Even in the darkness of their reality, they were able to hold on to the light of Christ found in the scriptures. The men gathered at noon and at 6 PM daily for prayer and a reading from scripture. They were sent a copy of the Jesus film to watch.

Like the trapped miners, we are called to keep working. We continue to do work, not for salvation but to give glory to God and to point others toward Jesus.

By some estimates more than a billion people watched the first miner be lifted to the surface. As Florencio Avalos stepped from the capsule name Phoenix he was wearing a tan t-shirt that many of his co-workers would also wear on their journey to the light. It read, “Gracias Senior!” “Thank you God.” And on the back were words from Psalm 95, “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him,” followed by the phrase, “To God Alone be the Honor and Glory.”

Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to reach the surface said of his time in the mine, “I was with God and I was with the Devil, but God won!” What a true statement, a statement of faith, a witness to the world and a true statement for all who live on this world.

We continue to be about the business of Christ, supplied with gifts from heaven to meet our needs. Someday our time in this prison filled with sin will be over. Like the miners in Chile, we will be taken from the darkness into the light. We will rise, clothed in Christ, and God will win.

Just over 24 hours from the start of the rescue, Luis Urzua climbed aboard the rescue capsule and was taken to the surface. He was greeted by the president of Chile Sebastian Pinera with the words, “Bienvenidos a Vida!” Welcome to life! Then he told him, “Your shift is over.”

Some day we will hear our Savior say those words to us, “Welcome to life! Your shift is over.” As He wraps His arms around us and welcomes us to heaven where there is no darkness, no sin, no sadness ONLY life eternal. Our work will be done. The work of Jesus will be complete. We are made right.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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