Saturday, March 26, 2016

2 Timothy 1:9-11 (Easter story)

“The Rescue Mission”
MasterPiece Church
Easter -- 27 March 2015

There is no shortage of good “how to” information out there. How to get out of debt. How to pray. How to read the Bible. How to know God. But sometimes what our hearts most need is an explanation. And sometimes the best way to explain is to do as Jesus did -- and tell a story.

It’s long been assumed that there is more to the world than meets the eye. And that is true. Far below the surface of our great planet is a voluminous cavern, which has for thousands and thousands of years been wooing the curious -- and adventuresome.

Indeed, no one can escape its draw. Even those who pretend to be afraid of going underground eventually wander in through one of the many many entrances. And once you’re through an entrance -- sometimes 3 feet in -- or at other entrances 300 feet -- once you’re in that far -- you trip onto the slide. And rocketing down you go -- the thrill of a lifetime -- propelled by gravity through pitch black underground darkness -- most certainly exceeding 100 g’s.

For thrill seekers, this is the ultimate ride. For those of us who won’t set foot onto the tamest of roller coasters -- the slide is unbearable hell.

Regardless of how you experience the ride -- the end is always the same. People land with a thud onto the floor of the big cave. Some then grope about in the dark to find a ladder. Others try to crawl back up the slippery slide. But you know what happens when you’re on a slide and someone else is descending at rapid speed. Ka-boom -- -- then thud. And the ladder? It doesn’t exist.

Once you’re in the cave there is no way out -- kind of like those spikes in the parking lot. You can get in but don’t try to back out or it will shred your tires.

So, think about the math. Millions of people have all lived on the planet over time. Every last one of them ends up on a slide down into the pitch black cave. Some go as children and others as old people. Many middle-agers hit the slide, too. And so millions end up stuck at the bottom unable to climb out. And the number of cave dwellers grows daily.

Such an inevitability casts a shadow over life itself.

Then our Hero enters the story -- a man like no other. He devotes his life to rescuing people on the surface -- growing in power and knowledge along the way. He talks of the slide and cave very matter of factly -- even though most surface dwellers want to have nothing to do with such speculative nonsense. And he challenges them to recognize his power and to live different kinds of lives.

But, of course, such a challenge is usually met by a challenge. On a whole the surface dwellers resist the Hero and early on it becomes apparent that they are eager to dispatch him along his way -- down a slide and into the cave.

The Hero, however, doesn’t back down. It’s almost as though he is drawing the surface dimwits into his plan. That, of course, is the case.

So they plot to push the Hero down a slide. And even as they scheme -- fully aware of their hearts and intentions -- he continues to stay close to his enemies.

Then one night after an epic meal they suddenly show up -- in force. And with humiliating fanfare drag the Hero to the nastiest cave entrance they can find. Young and old, men and women, rich and poor -- most without a word of protest -- watch as soldiers and politicians pitch the Hero into the cave.

Then to make sure that he can never leave they bring in a dump truck with a huge stone which is dropped at the cave entrance. And just to be doubly safe -- they seal the stone in place with 117 loads of quick set concrete.

Well, as they say, the rest is history. The Hero begins the descent down the slide. But unlike most who scream in fear as they drop, the Hero wraps his arms on his chest and yells in delight and glee all the way down. He is having the time of his life. And his shouts are so forceful that they precede him down through the shaft -- echoing between the chamber walls -- and rattling the bones of those resting in the cave below. The twisting, turning jubilant ride goes on and on -- maybe three days and three nights -- who knows what actually happens to time in such a place. But it is a long drop.

There is so much energy in the air by the time the Hero slips off the tip of the slide, that all the people are on their feet screaming as though they are Seattle Seahawks fans in their unduly loud home stadium. They don’t know why they’re cheering but it seems like the thing to do.

Then as the earlier shouts of the Hero continue to echo back and forth between the walls of the expansive cavern, the energy focuses into a single beam -- a ray sporting the sharpness and shine of a pure white laser. And from the very spot where the Hero has landed on his feet, the energy beam shoots upward onto the beautiful cave ceiling -- a glorious ceiling which in the dark no one before had ever seen -- a ceiling which begins to give way to the pulverizing beam and an upward shaft forms.

Soon light from the upper world is shining down the newly cut shaft. And for the first time darkness no longer owns the cave. Those drawn to the light immediately begin to take bodily form -- the molecules of their remains are restructured -- and the more time they spend in the light -- the firmer their flesh becomes. The cave dwellers insist to each other that their bodies have become more real than they were even when living on the surface.

You can well imagine the commotion in the cave. What a contrast to the deadly silence of the past. People are once again talking and laughing. Some are even singing and dancing. The hushed tones of the shadow world give way to the glorious and colorful. And most recognize the Hero as a -- well, a hero -- their hero.

He positions himself on a flat-top boulder right where the new light is starting to flood the cave. Raising both hands, the Hero motions to the millions and begins to explain. He tells them that he is preparing to install a super elevator that will eventually lift them all to full light. In the meantime, they should enjoy the partial light as it emanates through the new shaft.

Now, some of the cave dwellers are obviously uncomfortable with all the light and they gravitate back toward the shadows in the cavern. I don’t know what they’ll do when the elevator arrives. But I’m guessing that some will choose to remain down there in the dark because they find the light too painful. So be it. That will be their own choice. But that’s a story for another day.

The Hero ends his brief speech -- bends his legs at his knees -- and with a muscular thrust takes a single bounding super hero leap up and into the light-filled shaft. As he ascends he takes a left turn near the surface so he can make a dramatic exit out of the cave entrance that had been his point of forced entry. And with one final blast of energy the fully alive Hero blows the sealed cave door out -- sending rock and debris flying throughout the entire expanse of creation -- witnesses of the most heroic rescue mission of all.

And that’s the good news.

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