Proper 14B, August 9, 2015

August 11, 2015

Miraculous Extraction
Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

I consider the appearance of the recommended Psalm for this week, Psalm 130, to fall in to the category of a serendipitous harmonic convergence. It might not meet the criteria for an act of divine providence, but there’s a nice coincidence going on here. This may have escaped your attention, but CNN made a pretty big deal of the fact that August 5 was the fifth anniversary of the entrapment of 33 miners inside the San Jose Gold and Copper Mine near Copiapo, Chile – which sparked an international rescue operation that resulted in their rescue 69 days later. Even if you didn’t hear anything about this anniversary, I’m guessing that you remember the event. They say that about a billion people were tuned in to this story when the men started to emerge from the mountain.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

I think I read this Psalm shortly after hearing that this week marked the fifth anniversary of that remarkable event, and I couldn’t shake the sense of appropriateness that this Psalm provides in light of that story. I knew their rescue was an incredible event, but I didn’t really know how miraculous it was until I did a little mining for more information about what happened.

In case you aren’t as much of a news nerd as I am let me share some of the details of what happened. The trapped miners were assembled in a small room that was about a half a mile below the surface of the earth. This little refuge had tunnels connected to it, but they were encapsulated in a pretty small space, and they realized early on that there wasn’t a way out. Nobody knew if the trapped miners were alive, and the miners didn’t know if there was any chance that they could be rescued.

The President of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, saw to it that huge rescue operation got underway quickly, but there had never been such a rescue, and this mine was cut in to some of the hardest rock that you will find on earth. Early on they established a two phase plan for the rescue. The first phase was to try to drill a small hole as quickly as possible in to the refuge area that would be large enough to provide fresh air and to transport food and supplies to the miners, and the second phase would be to drill a wider hole that a NASA designed rescue capsule could be send down to retrieve the miners one at a time. This mine was about 100 years old, and not well mapped, but even if they knew exactly where that underground refuge was located it was a long shot for a drill to hit it.

This quickly became an international story and an international effort, and three different drill technologies were used to try to get to the spot where the men had presumably gathered. The room that these men assembled in had a footprint of about 530 square feet. They calculated that there was about a1.25% chance of making contact with that space, but after 17 days of drilling the 12th bore hole entered the space where the men were located. The trapped miners were able to attach a note to the end of the drill bit, and when it was extracted the world realized that they were alive.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!

One of the side stories of this event was the way in which faith was manifested – both from the trapped miners and from the people who were seeking to rescue them. There are a lot of horrible situations that you can find yourself in on this earth, but being trapped in a small space about a half a mile inside a giant rock with limited food and water ranks right up there with the worst of them. I’m guessing this situation surpassed the depth criteria from which this Psalmist was considering when he or she first expressed this prayer.

Of course when you are in such a desperate situation how can you express anything other than a plea to God for salvation? I think that’s the kind of situation that would bring a lot of focus in to most people’s prayer life. I’m sure I would have been in prayer whenever I wasn’t uncontrollably blubbering.

Fortunately there were some spiritually mature men within the group who came to think of themselves as The 33, and they did a good job of organizing themselves for survival as well as preparing themselves for their potential death.

They created a plan for distributing their limited food and water sparingly and fairly. They assigned tasks for keeping the space clean and they provided opportunities for physical fitness. They also had regular gatherings for prayer and worship, and the message they embraced was two-fold. They maintained their hope for rescue, but they also sought the courage to die with dignity if that was to be their fate.

It’s interesting that this Psalm begins with this powerful plea for deliverance – for God to hear the voice of their supplications, but then it immediately acknowledges the undeserving nature of the petitioner. I don’t think any of us can make a strong case to God for how much we deserve to be preserved. And this is probably one of the gifts that comes to us when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. Life threatening situations strip away our most protected illusions of our selves. The loss of all control can help us see ourselves more clearly, and such clarity can enable us to develop more trust in the grace of God, and to become less impressed with our own capabilities.

Fortunately we don’t have to become encapsulated within the earth in order to develop such trust and dependence on God. Unfortunately we can find ourselves crying out from the depths without having to leave the house. Desperate-life-threatening situations can reach up and grab us at any time. And I’m not just talking about criminal trespassing. Life-stealing circumstances come to us in many different forms.

Disease, depression, addiction, estrangement, unemployment, and accidents can turn our lives upside down as quickly as a mine can collapse, and we can find ourselves as far from the goodness of life as those miners were suddenly thrust.

Few people have found themselves as cut off from the world in the way those miners were, but life becomes precarious for all of us at times, and this Psalm provides us with a good reminder of how to best respond to those situations – cry out to God!

Cry out to God and trust that the light of life will return. Trust in God and know that with God there is steadfast love. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it but because that’s what God does.

Cry out to God and trust that life will return even if life doesn’t turn out the way you want it to be. The good news that Jesus both trusted in and proclaimed doesn’t always play out nicely on the surface. The Lord of Life wasn’t well regarded here on earth, but he didn’t fail to change the world. I don’t think Jesus would have us believe that if we pray hard enough we will be delivered from all of our afflictions, but I do believe that our fervent prayers to God can put us in touch with life regardless of what kind of death-dealing circumstances come our way.

Trust in God helped those miners maintain hope that they would be rescued, and they gave credit to God for their miraculous extraction from that hole in the earth, but it was their trust in God that would have enabled them to die with dignity if it had come to that.

It always helps to cry out to God when we find ourselves in difficult territory. I believe God speaks to our souls in mysterious ways, but I also believe it helps us to see ourselves more clearly and our neighbors and loved ones more graciously. None of us are without fault, but none of us are beyond the love of the One who can provide us with the opportunity for redemption.

Thanks be to this One who hears the voice of our supplications, and who provides us with miraculous extractions from the deepest of depths.

Thanks be to God.


2 Responses to “Proper 14B, August 9, 2015”

  1. Earl Jones Says:

    Very insightful, thanks.

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