April 14, 1912 it began, and on Sunday April 15, 1912 it was finished.
The band is said to have played the hymn, Nearer My God To Thee, as the ship went down. None of the musicians survived. It was said that people gathered around a piano in the ship’s saloon earlier that evening , before any hint of what was to come, and sang hymns. And that the memory of singing these words of faith, was what may have kept some calmer than they may otherwise have been as the chaos began for survival. The band moved to the ship’s deck, and kept on playing, until the belly of the boat gave up and sank below the water.
Not exactly a church, and not exactly a church service in the way we’d define one. But nonetheless, this group of people,focused on an eternal God, voices moving together in words that captured,for them, a Biblical Truth that would carry most from the deck of this enormous ship, to the very portals of Heaven, is a church. Not traditional or conventional in any sense of the word. There were no collection plates or three point sermons. No greeters at the door, and no special story time for children.
But there was unity for those who shared the same belief, there was support as each one’s courage strengthened the other. From reading the few accounts I did, I can only imagine what those left behind on the ship’s deck, must have felt. But I’m sure the comfort of a hymn, played by some probably with heartfelt gusto, by others maybe a little more timorous, was what kept them able to face the inevitable dark waters with dignity and hope.
A regular Sunday morning service doesn’t face this kind of immediate danger. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t the potential of a constant iceburg of threat out there for her. A threat to being submerged by a different kind of water, to maybe not having enough life boats on hand, in the spiritual sense, if confronted with the events that Revelations speaks of to come.
And how close am I to a Titanic situation in the waters of my own life. I need to stay with those people, around the piano in the boat’s saloon, listening to the hymns and Words that would later be their strength.
Church, for me will be the ship that I’ll look to to carry me over my personal rough waters. A place of strengthening, of encouragement, of sharing, of being held up in a lifeboat of fellowship. She may be imperfect, like the Titanic, but she’s blessed by God to carry her passengers safely to the other side. This is a ship of whose passenger list I’m happy to be on. Who knows what lies ahead, but I do know that the one Who lies at the head will bring me safely to shore.
Those musicians playing Nearer My God To Thee on the deck of that unsinkable boat, created a makeshift place of worship, a temporary church for those literally facing death around them. It must have taken enormous courage to stay in place, to continue to play this hymn that strengthened so many in the final moments of their life. This is a true Church in every meaning of the word.
God designed the church for His people, a strong and sturdy ship to get us safely to the other side, providing we continue to build it to hold against the iceburgs that may come our way some day.
“Nearer My God To Thee”. May that be the compass that guides us there.
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