Summary: Pentecost 16: We find ourselves on the short end of a spiritual battle. But our help comes from God. He changes the tide of the battle and wins the victory for us through Jesus’ Cross.
The most scared that I can ever remember being happened when I was about 4 years old. My dad had taken me with him to the Mexican border city of Reynosa. He had gone there to make a purchase. I remember him parking in front of a store that seemed very busy. He needed to go inside and so he asked me to wait in the car. Now this was in 1958. It was a different world then. Generally much more safe, and people cared for each other and knew their neighbors. We didn’t think anything of leaving the house with the door unlocked.
And so dad leaving me to wait in the car for him was not at all unusual. And so he left to make his purchase and said, “Esperame aquí. No te vallas a salir del carro” – “Wait for me here. Don’t leave the car.” But you know how time seems to move very, very slowly for a young person? I don’t know how long it was, but I opened the door to the car and went out into the busy streets of Reynosa to look for my dad. I suppose that I must have thought that finding my father would be a piece of cake. But it only took a short while of wandering around the streets of a strange city, in a foreign country, and seeing nothing but strangers before I became scared.
I remember calling out to dad. But the only attention that I got was from strangers. Then I started to cry. Then the police came and they tried to put me into their car. Looking back on it now, I know that they were just trying to help. But then, it was terrifying. And I remember screaming louder and fighting them. They would try to push me into the car and I would worm my way out. I crawled out the doors, the windows – I remember screaming and struggling and fighting them and yelling for my father. Pretty soon, a crowd gathered. It must’ve been quite a spectacle – a four-year-old kid screaming and yelling and struggling against the police. And through-out the whole thing I was terrified. But then, all of a sudden, stepping through all the strangers’ faces was my dad! And it was wonderful. I remember feeling so safe and happy when he reached through that crowd to pick me up. Dad rescued me!
Those who write the novels and make the movies know that people love rescues. In the old westerns it was the cavalry that would ride to the rescue at the last minute to save the pioneers or the fort or the family that was under attack. In the war movies it was the reinforcements or the artillery or air support that came just in time to rescue the squad that was under fire. In the block-buster movie – Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers, there is a cataclysmic battle between humans and the orcs – a part goblin, part demon race. Now in the movie the orcs had overrun the human fortress. A small band of humans was ready to lead one, final hopeless charge that they were sure would result in their deaths. But when they charge out into the oncoming orc masses, out of the east comes Gandalf – a character representing the strength of goodness. He leads into battle an army of humans that he’s gathered from all around middle earth. That last second charge changes the course of the battle and the humans overcome.
Rescues are wonderful. Whether it’s lost kid or a fictional movie – rescues change the disastrous, terrible and catastrophic events into something good. When folks get into trouble and somebody comes to the rescue, it changes the whole character of a desperate situation. It brings hope and joy and a new lease on life.
All of us have felt the stranglehold that sin and death bring to us. When sin entered into the world, the whole of creation was affected. Our very nature was changed from a beings that God created perfect and with his image – to flawed creatures. And this corruption of what God created good, has affected us all. Have you ever wondered why you say and do things that hurt those that love? When you read the newspaper and listen to the news reports, have you ever wondered why people can be so cruel to each other? Have you ever wondered how sexual predators could molest a child?
The answer is that in the fall of Adam and Eve – all of us fell. We are engaged in a losing battle. The situation is extreme – even desperate. The attack we face is so insidious that we even suffer the pain of our very nature lining itself against us in the fight. Paul writes to the Roman believers: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7.18) Paul wasn’t trying to cop out in an attempt to escape moral responsibility. He was lamenting the desperate and losing struggle that he – and we – face.