By The Very Reverend Vladimir Berzonsky
"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, 'Wasn't it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?' They replied, "Certainly, O king.' He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.'" (Daniel 3:24)
Estimates put nearly one of every six persons on earth as viewers of the rescue of the miners in Chile, trapped under the earth for sixty-nine days. No communication emerged for the first seventeen days. Pessimism prevailed. Few would dare hope that the men were alive. The mountain over and around them was of almost solid stone. They were a half mile beneath the surface. The first miracle was making contact, the second miracle to realize that they were all alive, and the third was to drill down to them and create an opening large enough to bring every one of them to the surface whole and hale.
Were they thirty-three men in all, they were asked? "No," one of them vowed after his rescue. "There were thirty four of us. The Lord was always present. God is a miner." They worked in the mines most of their lives, some since childhood. They descended as common laborers hardly distinguishable from one another. They emerged as personalities in the special capsule named Phoenix, the Egyptian mythical bird who perishes in flames every 500 years and resurrects from the ashes. Already they became celebrities with their biographies explored and shared universally with television viewers. They bonded together even tighter in their adversity than in their labor. When told that it was a great success to be found and offered a way out of the deep bowels of the earth, one demurred, "No, it will not be successful unless all thirty three of us are safely above the earth."
As though they had died and gone to Hades only to be given a second chance at life, they had been blessed to build on whatever faith they had when they had been sealed in the earth. Some had been married in civil ceremonies or not at all, yet before being brought up to the light, they committed themselves to a proper church wedding in the sight of the Lord. Trauma does that to a person.
Above ground, anxious hope dominated the scene. The families and friends of the miners watched the proceedings with both anxiety and conviction that they would be joined with their beloved without fail.
What was missing? Contrast the explosion of the oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico, that tragic disaster that dominated our thoughts for several months in the recent past. Chileans, those humble people on the rim of western South America, a nation many in our country may not be able to find on the map, has offered us a living lesson in life, hope, joy and courage -- if only we are wise enough to grasp it. They solved their problem rather than obsessed with blame. Where was the horde of lawyers swarming the site eager to find cause for damages, negligence, and other faults by which to profit from the trauma? Where were the politicians shoving themselves onto the scene, grasping microphones and nudging themselves in, eager for face time in front of the television cameras?
Gazing on the scene with the eye of the Spirit, do you not recognize a metaphor of death's journey and the arrival at the gates of God's Kingdom? Recall the sheer delight of those on the surface, fixated on the hole from which the human cage would emerge from the mineshaft below. They focused on the wheel above, compelling the spokes to turn and the cable to gather on the spool. Then when the cage opened and the miner came forth, eyes covered with dark spectacles to be embraced by wife, fiancée, mother or child -- who cannot anticipate what it will be like when we complete the awesome journey from death through the passage beyond, and the meeting with the Lord Jesus, along with those of our own who had gone before us? "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!'" (Revelation 22:17)