I’ve always loved Jesus’ parables. Their shock value and the many twists and turns within them that have a habit of upturning everything we take for granted appeal to me – I’ve always liked stories where the world turns out to not be quite as it seems to be at first glance. The recent exploits of the miners in Chile in their rescue after an impossibly long time got me wondering if here was a tale which could be retold to encourage a looking at this world from another angle. Is this world really as we think it is, is what we call normal really normal? Of course, like all parables, you shouldn’t push it too hard. I don’t believe that this world is one to be escaped from – ultimately I believe God intends to renew it, to make it new – a return to Eden (Rev. 21:1-5)
The Kingdom of God is like this…
There was a copper mine that was built in San Jose, Chile. The owner had visions of a great industrial venture that would create wealth and prosperity for both him and those that worked there.
Things did not go to plan, however. After a good start, part of the complex collapsed, crashing down and blocking the exit. Desperately, this left thirty three men trapped inside its tunnels, two miles beneath the surface. Were they alive? Nobody knew. Even if they were, there was clearly no hope of their escaping – how could they possibly clear the way from so far down! A further collapse two days later seemed to seal their fate.
Outside there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth as the families and friends of the miners fear that they are dead.
Seventeen days later it is discovered that the thirty-three have survived after a note is found on a listening probe that had been lowered down saying ‘Estamos bien en el refugio los 33’ – ‘All 33 of us are well inside the shelter.’ Despite this good news, the wailing and gnashing of teeth continues outside. Their loved ones may be alive, but what hope is there for them, who can reach them now?
Down below, life goes on, but what kind of life is it trapped in a dark black and white life, restricted in almost everyway. What is there to live for in a mine shaft two miles from the surface? After many days, the miners began to forget what life used to be like in colour when they knew freedom. Perhaps after a while they settled into a routine, this strange life became normal.
But an audacious rescue attempt is launched. Word is sent to those trapped so many miles from the surface, ‘don’t worry, we’re sending you a way out. Be patient. Trust in us. Keep exercising; keep slim so that you’re ready.’ There were celebrations amongst those who believed, but some doubted; ‘this life is all that there is’ they declared, ‘what more could there be?’ Time for the miners and for the desperate families seemed to pass very slowly. Would the promised rescue ever happen, or would these words of hope only prove to be false like so many other promised had done?
Then, one day, a drill broke through into the distant mineshaft from above. A capsule appeared not long after, just as the message had promised. All they had to do now was climb in and let themselves be winched to the life of freedom and colour that awaited them. Above onlookers waited with bated breath, ready for the celebrations to begin!
Church Newsletter article for Sunday 17th October 2010