Thursday of Pentecost 22 – Hebrews 7:23-28

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Rick Stanton is a retired British firefighter with an odd hobby. He likes to explore caves. But not just any caves, he likes the caves with lots of water. He is a member of a tiny community of people who don specialized apparatus and, at considerable risk, dive into the waters of submerged caverns where fresh air can be far away, and the currents can pull you ever deeper. He was the object of mild curiosity and puzzlement to his family and friends for decades until 2018. That year the members of a youth soccer team and their coach entered an extensive cave system in northern Thailand to celebrate the birthday of one of the boys. This was not considered a particularly dangerous cave but while they were inside an unexpected and intense rainstorm broke upstream, flooding its many chambers. Because a fellow caving expert happened to be near the Thai minister of tourism as the emergency situation came to light and slipped him a note, Rick got a desperate call and was soon on his way to Thailand.

Cave diving is a very specialized skill. The Thai and U. S. special forces who arrived could not enter the cave. Their equipment and experiences were not up to the task, but Rick and some of his friends could do it. Eventually, after 10 days, they found the boys and their coach. They were all alive. But how could they get out? None of the boys were trained to scuba dive, let alone navigate a cave with hyper-specialized equipment. It was finally decided to sedate the boys and literally carry them out of the cave, one by one. Miraculously, no one perished. Rick says that no one questions his strange hobby anymore. He feels like he had inadvertently been preparing this moment when he would save a dozen lives. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus being a one of a kind. He was both human and the perfect eternal God. That made his work on a cross different from any other priest. His sacrifice is once and for all. Only he could have done what he did. The Thai families do not speak English. Rick speaks no Thai. But they send him letters every year, updating him on the growth and lives of these young boys. His saving work created an everlasting bond. They will never forget him.

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