Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. (Luke 18:1)
This week, on our television screens, has played out a most extraordinary story, a most inspiring event. So often we see and hear about disasters and tragedies, scandals and cruelties, wars and conflicts.
Yet this week has been refreshingly different. On our screens we have witnessed from Chile the amazing sight of 33 miners, who had been sealed deep underground for many weeks, being rescued and reunited with their families. It has been a moment of joy and triumph. A tremendous feat of engineering which has inspired the Chilean people to great celebrations of their patriotism.
Here in the Potteries it is a situation we can feel for perhaps even more deeply than others. Though ours were mines for coal with now only a few marks on our landscape to remind us of them, and theirs still working mines for copper, our communities, parents and grandparents, painfully experienced the dangers of extracting minerals from deep in the earth.
On New Years’ Day 1942 - in perhaps the most shocking of many events - this city lost 57 men and boys in an explosion at Sneyd Colliery. In 2010 we can rejoice that 33 men’s lives were saved in Chile.
And alongside the obvious jubilation and the fervent patriotism of those saved and their families, friends and colleagues, it was striking to notice how many fell to their knees and praised God for the answer to their prayers. Their courage - in maintaining hope and optimism despite being trapped deep underground - was striking and impressive.
We are only too aware that often our prayers do not get answered in the way we wish. We know very well that optimism can be dashed with tragedy. But not always. Not of necessity.
These people, thrown together by chance and circumstance, Imprisoned deep with a long and bleak outlook ahead of them, They kept the faith. They did not lose heart. And eventually, finally, after toil and anguish, with trust in the skill of men and the unfailing love of God, they emerged triumpant from their temporary tombs, like ones risen from the dead.