We’re just one week away from yet another anniversary of the Titanic catastrophe. But for the first time since 1997, more people will be talking about another famous ship, one that stayed afloat and allowed its passengers to disembark in safety at the end of a long, treacherous voyage.
The RMS Titanic was celebrated as the pinnacle of human intelligence and engineering when it set sail in 1912. It boasted a design so sophisticated that it was advertised as “unsinkable.” The vessel did not carry enough lifeboats for all its passengers because ships in distress, even ordinary ones, could limp along for hours, allowing more than enough time for rescue efforts. Passengers on the Titanic would not require lifeboats- or so they assumed. But when this unsinkable wonder of human engineering sank beneath the icy waves on the evening of 14 April, 1,517 men, women and children died in cold, dark waters. Only one-third of the people on board managed to survive.
This year more of us will be talking about a very different vessel, one that carried no lifeboats at all! Noah’s Ark is on the lips of people everywhere, largely because of a recent motion picture called Noah. The blockbuster film adds a great deal to the biblical account and even depicts the title character as deranged and violent through most of his time at sea, but it certainly has people talking- and reading. Two popular sites for online Bible reading report that the numbers of people reading Genesis spiked 300%! That can only be a good thing, no matter what you happen to think of the movie itself.
Go back and read Genesis 6 – 8 once again and you’ll find the Ark makes a much more compelling and inspiring story. For example:
In Titanic, Rose recalls that Jack Dawson saved her “in every way a person can be saved,” and the soundtrack promises, My Heart will Go On. In fact, there were many real examples of self sacrifice and personal heroism on the sinking ship that fateful night, but it is still remembered as an unthinkable tragedy. Hundreds of corpses were left floating in the water, some too damaged to be removed from the sea. Indeed, the most inspiring memory of the tragic affair is the final song played by the orchestra before the music stopped and the Titanic took its final plunge: Nearer My God to Thee.
The other ship, the successful one, could never be called a feat of human engineering. It was constructed by unsophisticated men using simple tools and following a design from Heaven. It did not boast elegant china place settings or 11-course meals, but berths on the Ark were very exclusive and by invitation only. Once inside, the eight passengers were genuinely saved in every way a person can ever be saved. Not only did they survive to start the world over, but their faith made them soul survivors as well. You’ll see them in Heaven if you’ve made your own reservations. No wonder the real story of Noah’s Ark ends with a rainbow in the sky!
Secular men and women in advanced nations in the 21st Century share at least one comforting illusion with the people of the Titanic: with the advantages of high finance and hi-tech, we can be our own gods; chart our own way. The folks on the Titanic clung to that deception until just after midnight on April 14, 1912, when they finally spilled into the drink. Many of us post-modern types still believe the lie even as a hole below the waterline is taking our culture down, down, down. What is that haunting melody the orchestra is playing? It’s a hymn, isn’t it? The name is on the tip of my tongue.
Lift up the Cross!