The clarion call

On Thursday, April 12, 1912 the largest ship that had ever been built set sail on her maiden voyage from South Hampton, England to New York with 2,201 passengers aboard. She was a luxurious floating hotel that could move at the then phenomenal speed of 23 knots. More importantly, she was believed to be unsinkable. She was due in New York in five days, the following Wednesday.

Sunday morning daw ned clear and bright. At 9 a.m. the Titanic received a message from the steamship Carpathia saying, “West-bound steamers report icebergs and field ice.” The Titanic was doing 22 knots. She sped on. At 9 p.m. The Californian radioed saying, “We are completely surrounded by icebergs.” The Titanic sped on.

It was later reported that the captain received five different calls that day warning him. He received one on his way into dinner, read it, crumpled it in his hand, threw it in the urn beside the door and walked in to join his guests at the captain’s table.

At 11:40 p.m. the lookout, high atop his tower, suddenly saw this big white monstrous shape immediately ahead of the ship. Frantically he sounded three bells and called the captain, “Iceberg dead ahead!” It was too late. There was a dull thud, a scraping sound and ice showered the deck. The iceberg had ripped a 300-foot gash in the hull.

Passengers were awakened, told to dress quickly and come on board. Irritated at being roused they demanded, “Why! Why has the engine stopped running? ” Then their anger turned to pandemonium. There were only half enough lifeboats and these were leaving partially filled. Many people jumped into the icy water trying to catch the lifeboats.

The band, which had been playing ragtime, began playing “Nearer My God To Thee.” At 1:20 a.m. on that ill-fated Monday morning, with a great hissing sound as a final death sigh, the mighty Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea and 1,490 passengers went down to a watery grave.

Through the centuries God has been calling people—groups, nations and individuals—Abraham in Ur, Moses at the burning bush, the child Samuel in the Temple, Saul on the Damascus Road. You and me?

The most clarion call is from the Cross of Calvary that says we are loved with an everlasting love. In light of God’s incredible gift we should live our lives in service to other people in the name of Christ.

You can do it whatever your circumstance. For some it means hanging on and being strong, for some it will mean giving up, for some it will mean making a telephone call of encouragement. All of us can do something. Let us not ignore his call. We do so at our peril. Let us hear and heed and then be willing to be used as God’s instruments in this his world.

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he served as senior minister for 23 years. He writes a column for several newspapers.

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2010-05-13 digital edition

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