Thai Cave Rescue
Huddled together their cheap torches soon gave out and darkness was their lot. The 12 Thai boys and their coach endured up to 18 days in a Thai cave, sitting on a shelf above rising waters. Asian children have respect for their Elders but their coach, Ekkapol Chanthawong, was still remarkable for keeping the boys’ spirits alive. I can only imagine that the experience was one for dark night of the soul. The event had us holding our breath and filled us with anxiety. We joined the millions around the world in a global collective prayer for the trapped young football team.
A. The question is: where were Jesus' hands and feet in the Thai cave ordeal?
Many people were part of the rescue at Chiang Rai. Many people became the means of compassion: the hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus was there in his diving gear, Jesus was there with medical aid, Jesus was there manning the water pumps, and Jesus was their teaching young hearts to be still and to breathe slowly. Ekkapol taught the boys meditation so, strong in their innermost being, they could cope with the ordeal.
Ekkapol who was once a Buddhist Monk has the heart of the compassionate Jesus. He left the monastery to care for his ailing grandmother. As a football coach he cared for the boys more than himself. In the cave he gave his share of the food and water to the boys. In the dark night of the soul in a flooded cave it is important to value oneself. Ekkapol knew this as an important self-preservation measure. A long-time friend of Ekkapol said: “He was the kind of person who looked after himself and he taught the kids to do the same.” The figure of the assertive Jesus emerges in the cave.
So Jesus had many hands and feet at Chiang Rai.
B. We can have caves of our own making. None of us are perfect and we can produce a cave for ourselves, a cave that traps us and stops us from finding our full potential.
In the Old Testament story, God's people, Israel, are failing God's expectations. They are involved in injustice and follow policies that are not caring. The Northern King’s Sanctuary is at Bethel and there Amaziah is the court chaplain. Amaziah was virtually in place to stop anyone from “rocking the boat”. Israel is in a cave of injustice - a cave in which people are in the darkness of ill treatment. To this “cave” God sends Amos -an outsider who is not a prophet, or, at least, not a fully professional and endorsed prophet. God has called Amos to denounce Israel. There is a contest: Amos warns Israel and Amaziah tells Amos to go away and earn his bread elsewhere .
Israel was in a cave. We can be in a cave too. Our cave can be the cave of exclusiveness - where not everyone makes the mark. Where not everyone is accepted and loved. When we follow the Anglo-Catholic tradition we could find ourselves in the cave of preciousness. We protect our tradition to such an extent that we lose sight of what we are meant to be. In this case we can find that we serve the tradition rather than allowing the Anglo-Catholic tradition to serve us. There is a need to leave this cave and discover that our tradition can be fulfilled by love and transcendence, by compassion, and holiness. Let us beware of caves! God calls us out of the caves of our own making.
C. God wants us to be in the light - caught up in the holy worship of our tradition, and allowing God's light to show us the way forward as a faith community.
All that we are yet to learn from Chiang Rai may dawn on us when the book is written, and the film released. As the rescue proceeded we became aware of our love for those in danger. We knew the warmth of gratitude for the many rescuers. We became aware of our humanity - capable of great things yet prone to make human mistakes (like Ekkapol).
And we need to be wary not to be in a cave of our own making.
We are called into the light of Christ