Human beings have a power that comes from the Almighty and this power can do great good. Use it today and you cooperate with God in giving deeper meaning to every place you visit, every object you own, and even to past events. Nature and Nature’s God makes the mountain, but we give it a name. Workmen build a house, but a mother, father, and children make it a home. A cheap piece of wood, string, and a bit of varnish can become priceless because of a great, good, man who did his duty: Wallace Henry Hartley, the band leader on the Titanic.
Today the good ship RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and hundreds of people faced death, judgment and God Almighty. From that day forward, Western culture has been fascinated by the story of the largest object built by mankind up to that point in history being destroyed on its maiden voyage by something as simple as a giant chunk of ice.
My dad first told me the story of the doomed liner, there was an old hymn on the ship, and I read Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember. The song sums up my feelings:
It was sad when that great ship went down,
It was sad when that great ship went down,
Husbands and wives and little children lost their lives,
It was sad when that great ship went down.
The crew of the doomed liner kept doing their duty to the end. They kept the community going as long as they could, avoiding the moment when civilization died and the ship degenerated to “every man for himself.” The musicians on the ship, overworked and underpaid, stayed on the deck doing their duty to the very end. Legend says they ended with Nearer My God to Thee.
God created the world, philosophers have said, with music and with music the band on Titanic created hope, life, and peace where there was despair, confusion, and chaos. They made a road to Heaven where Hell seemed triumphant. As a result, the instrument played, the violin from the ship, recently sold for almost two million dollars. This is not a fine instrument in itself, but today I will go on a pilgrimage to see this piece of wood that a soul created in the Image of God made priceless.
Wallace Henry Hartley and his brave band members made the violin more than it was. This simple instrument is now an icon, a window to Heaven.
Of course, this creation of meaning can work the other way and produce something negative. The White Star Line forever created the picture of the company that confuses the bottom line with winning when they billed the band members’ families for their uniforms. After all, the uniforms were not returned! Those bills remain the permanent indictment of small men who confused the rules with ethics, profit with success, and made a small piece of paper, the bill they posted, an immortal image of a small soul.
We do not need a crisis to produce meaning. We can create a workplace that is a blessing or a curse. We can make music in our homes or make out a bill that someday we must pay.
Today we can stop what we are doing and say something kind to a co-worker and make their day better. We can buy a cup of coffee for a friend. We can take some small possession and make it priceless to our families. I have an old jewelry box, used by my Papaw Reynolds, that has great value to me because it was his. If we do not consume and throw away, if we cherish an object appropriately, we can create a legacy out of small things.
We do the same with tragedy in history when we remember brave, good, and true men. We have the power to see that a temporary tragedy is part of the great, good, divine comedy (a play that ends in a wedding!).
Go to bed tonight, the night the good ship went down, with the icon of the violin in our minds singing in our hearts :
Nearer to thee!E’en though it be a crossThat raiseth me.Still all my song shall be
(Chorus)Nearer, my God, to thee,Nearer, my God, to thee,Nearer to thee!2. Though like the wanderer,The sun gone down,Darkness be over me,My rest a stone,Yet in my dreams I’d be3. There let the way appear,Steps unto heav’n;All that thou sendest me,In mercy giv’n;Angels to beckon me4. Then with my waking thoughtsBright with thy praise,Out of my stony griefsBethel I’ll raise;So by my woes to be5. Or if, on joyful wingCleaving the sky,Sun, moon, and stars forgot,Upward I fly,Still all my song shall be
Make music on the dark, cold night and so make it light, glorious, and warm.