Four months ago, I heard an incredible story on BBC radio. It was so unbelievable that I was convinced I hadn’t heard it correctly. But, I found the same story on CNN and in the LA Times and USA Today. And it was true.
Four months ago, Analia Bouter and her husband had been told that their baby girl was stillborn when she was delivered prematurely in Argentina’s Chaco province on April third. Because Analia had been understandably distressed immediately after the delivery, she hadn’t said a proper goodbye. So, after a few hours of recovery, before leaving the hospital, she insisted on seeing her daughter one last time. So, 12 hours after the baby was declared dead, she and her husband opened a coffin that had been nailed shut, in the refrigerated morgue, and in Analia’s words,
I moved the coverings aside . . . and I touched her hand and then uncovered her face. That’s when I heard a tiny little cry. I told myself I was imagining it — it was my imagination. And then I stepped back and saw her waking up. It was as if she was saying ‘Mama, you came for me!’ I fell to my knees. My husband didn’t know what to do. We were just crying and I laughed and cried, cries and laughter.
Analia’s brother picked up the baby and rushed her to the neonatal intensive care unit, and she is surviving. A modern-day miracle, she was given an appropriate name Luz Milagros, “Miracle Light.”
The story of God is this – we were dead, and God came for us.
The short passage Chris chose as our theme for this academic year, from 2 Corinthians 5, tells that story. It’s about the cosmic story taking place in history – that God came for us, that God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
We know from Genesis that human beings rebelled against God, destroying the community God designed for us to have with himself and with each other, leaving us in need of reconciliation. Leaving us, in the words of Scripture, dead.
But, God didn’t leave us with irreconcilable differences.
He said to us “I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Christians believe that everything of that old story, the old creation– the bondage, the brokenness, the sin, the death – it has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ.
Ever since I heard that story, I’ve been thinking about how that little baby girl, Luz Milagros, will understand what happened to her. How does a miracle child live a normal life? If you’re her sibling, how do you steal her toy. And if you’re her parents, how do you ground her for the weekend?
She will certainly see the world uniquely. And others will see the world differently because of her.
Paul says in our passage that once new creation comes into our lives, once we understand that we were dead and God came for us, we don’t view the world the same anymore. We don’t see from the same old worldly perspective.
And our lives are fueled by that change in vision. Our lives are changed by that change in vision. It’s like we are wearing glasses that reverse everything.
So, we see people differently. It’s not people wielding power who impress us, but humble people. It’s not rich people who capture our attention, but those who are poor. Everything is reversed. In sorrow, we see hope for rejoicing. In having nothing, we can possess everything. If we are unknown people in this world, we are known by the God of all creation.
We’re going to worship in a few minutes, and I think real worship, when we get glimpses of it, arises out of a discovery like the one in the story of baby Luz Milagros.
That moment when there was laughter and crying, crying and laughter – was when Analia expected death and instead, there was life.
When we see God, who came for us, we sing what Scripture calls a new song, a song, no matter how old it is, that always contains a little bit of surprise, amazement, wonder, astonishment. Gratitude for what God has done in Christ.
We sing words that attempt to capture that moment when we see the world differently, when we no longer see from a worldly perspective.
How can people who are suffering sing “blessed be your name”? It’s because they no longer see from a worldly perspective. They can bless God in the desert and in the land that is plentiful, because they are wearing reversed glasses.
In the classic song Amazing Grace, that John Newton wrote when he repented of his life as a slave trader, he captured it so well- a blind man writing these word: I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see. Amazing Grace.
Or I love this one – I was in Spartan Stadium last year, when more than 70,000 people sang from the Scriptures with Bono. My favorite U2 song is 40, from Psalm 40. It’s the new song that tells the old story of how God came for us. I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit. Out of the miry clay. I will sing, sing a new song.
Please stand for our time of worship and hear these words:
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.