I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery . . . (Exodus 20:2).
On September 11, 2001 Nick Lerangis was eleven days away from his fourteenth birthday. That beautiful Tuesday morning marked his fourth day of school at the Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan – a mere eight blocks from the World Trade Center.
In a 2011 article titled "I Knew You’d Come" Lerangis recounts his personal experience of that day. His narrative captures the initial curiosity that spread throughout the school, students running to windows on the schools upper floors to get a look at the dramatic sight of smoke billowing from one of the towers. The story turns sharply from curiosity to fear as the reality of what was happening gradually dawned on his school and the nation.
Eventually all 3200 students evacuated the building and Lerangis found himself among the mass of humanity walking up the West Side Highway. “I was a speck in a crowd of tens of thousands of people, all of us walking away from the towers and toward something unknown.” And then Lerangis shares this remarkable moment:
I fell away from my friends and began walking alone, looking out at the river and losing myself in thought about the weather and the upcoming Mets season. Then a hand landed on top of my head. Someone was palming my head. I panicked for a moment, not knowing who was tall enough to do that, figuring maybe one of the Varsity guys was picking on me. And then I turned. It was my dad.
The first words out of my mouth were “I knew you’d come.” Because somehow I did. I had known all along that my father would come find me. Out of the 13,000 streaming uptown, out of the 3,200 Stuyvesant kids, I knew I would be found. Because he was my dad. That’s just how it was. He had talked his way past the police barricades on the West Side Highway in a cab, and when the cab was finally stopped by the cops he had gotten out and run against the flow of foot traffic. It didn’t matter that he was one man running toward the disaster, toward his confused 13-year-old son. It didn’t matter that I was just one puny and rattled prepubescent teen in a crowd of thousands. I knew he’d come. And of course he did.
Like Nick Lerangis’ Dad, God the father pursues his children. In the wilderness God pursued them with bread from heaven and water from the rock, with cloud by day and fire by night, with the parting of waters and the gift of deliverance. The pursuit had been happening long before they arrived at Sinai, long before the Law. Grace always comes first.
The Ten Commandments were never meant to be a way for us to find God. These instructions do not tell us what to do so that God will love us. Rather, these ten words tell us how to live once we realize that God has been in pursuit of us. Over and over again – before we ever gave a moment’s thought to ‘seeking’ God – God sought us.
Today God the Father comes alongside you; he finds you and invites you home. God has long been in pursuit of you. Do you see this? What gifts of grace do you see as you look back over your shoulder?
We give you thanks today, O God, for your faithful pursuit of us: For making a way when we didn’t know what was next; for meeting our needs we were completely spent. Remind us today of your faithful pursuit and move our hearts to respond in obedient love, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.