The last couple of weeks the news has been dominated by hurricane Harvey. I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures of boats full of children being towed through the flooded streets of Houston. We’ve been inspired by stories of strangers cooperating together to help those more unfortunate than themselves. As divisive and cantankerous as our culture and public discourse has become, seeing all the volunteers, contributions and how people have come together in the face of disaster shows us that there still is hope for our society.
However, hurricane Harvey also highlighted another reality – and that is the incredible fragility of our lives. It reminds us that there are many things which are out of our control. A lot of people thought they were safe, only to be surprised by rapidly rising water which forced them to evacuate in the middle of the night. A lot of people thought they still had time only to discover their escape route was already cut off and they were trapped.
Some people ignored the warnings and tried to drive through the rising flood anyway. In some cases this led to tragedy – like the man who couldn’t get his children or his parents out of his stalled van in time.
Some climbed into their attics thinking that would raise them above the level of the water only to find out they were wrong. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in that situation? You’ve climbed into what you thought was a place of safety but the waters keep rising and you’re trapped. Unless you can somehow break through the roof there’s no way out and you will drown.
Spiritually speaking, that describes the situation all of us were in. None of us has lived up to the standards God expects. To put it another way, all of us are sinners. People do all sorts of things to try to avoid the disaster that is sweeping toward us because of our sin. For example, a lot of people have the idea that doing some extra good deeds will counteract the consequences of sin. Others go on pilgrimages or ask the so-called ‘saints’ to intercede for them. Unfortunately, neither these nor any of the other things people do to earn their salvation are effective. Just like the people who took refuge in their attics these folks find out that the things they depended on as a refuge are actually a trap. There’s no way out. By depending on their own efforts to save themselves, they’ve actually ensured their own destruction. They’re dead – it’s just a matter of time.
Now picture yourself in that attic, watching the waters rise higher than you thought possible. You’ve got nothing with which to break through the roof. As time passes it gets harder and harder to keep your head above water. Then, just when you’ve about lost all hope, you hear a sound from the outside. Someone has heard your cries for help and is chopping through the shingles and underlayment. Just before the waters overwhelm you, a hole appears and hands reach down to pull you out of your prison.
In a spiritual sense, this is exactly what God has done for us. In Ephesians, chapter two Paul writes, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9 NIV)
What we couldn’t do for ourselves, God through Christ, did for us. Metaphorically, Christ chopped through the roof of our attic and lifted us out of the trap before we drowned in the rising flood.
In all the media coverage I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about their rescuer. What I have heard is a lot of gratitude that people put themselves at risk in order save others. In the same way, we ought to be grateful for what Jesus has done for us. He not only put Himself at risk to help us, He died for us.
Each week we gather to remember His sacrifice so that we can live. The bread we eat reminds us of His body. The juice reminds us of His blood. As we eat and drink let’s give thanks that He cared enough to rescue us from a hopeless situation.