Captain Francesco Schettino
Has anyone here heard of Captain Franscesco Schettino? Why he is famous…or rather…why he is infamous?
It is because he was captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank of the Tuscan coast this past January…a captain who decided to save his own scalp and hop into a lifeboat instead of making sure all his passengers were safe. Although he claimed afterward that he tripped into the lifeboat, he broke a sacrosanct rule: the captain goes down with the ship. Well, at least he or she does if anyone else is going to go down with it. A captain does not abandon ship until he or she knows everyone is safe.
Now…although the sinking of the Costa Concordia was major news, it is not the most famous shipwreck in history. I haven't done any empirical surveying, but what do you figure is the most famous one?
That's right…the Titanic. Although folks do question his judgment in other respects (for instance, launching lifeboats before they were full), the Titanic's Captain Edward John Smith went down to Davy Jones' Locker with two thirds of his passengers. Captain Smith went down with the ship.
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Women and Children First
The Titanic also gives evidence of another sacrosanct rule: women and children first:
- Of the 434 women on board (passengers and staff), 324 survived
- Of the 112 children, 56 survived
- Of the 1680 men, 323 survived
That's 75% of the women, 50% of the children, and only 19% of the men living to tell of that horrible tragedy.1
As you can see, the men on the Titanic heeded "women and children" first, and four-fifths of them remain a couple miles underwater to this day.
By the way, if you are wondering why children didn't fair as well as the women…there was a bit more than women and children at play…there was First Class, Second Class, and Third class (or Steerage).
- Of 7 First Class children, 6 survived
- Of 25 Second Class children, all survived
- Of 80 Third Class children, only 25 survived
That is 86%, 100%, and 31% respectively…so it didn't work out so well for Third Class kids. However, when it comes to Third Class men, only 13% survived2…so we still see "women and children" at work.
Now, in our modern "enlightened" culture where we no longer see women as the weaker sex, probably a little bit of the "women" in "women and children first" has worn off. (Although, I tend to believe that if I am ever on a sinking ship with a rabid feminist and I offer to let her get into a lifeboat in my stead that it is very, very unlikely that she'll shout, "You sexist Neanderthal!" and refuse to get in. :-))
What definitely remains, even today, is a societal concern for children. I am reminded of a quote from the introduction to Matthew Scully's book, Dominion:
Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind's capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because thy have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don't; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.
Aren't children also so "unequal and powerless" before us adults…and, as such, how we treat them is a "test of character," of our "capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship"?
Not too mention they are so darn cute…although I think yesterday I read a quote from Robin Williams that said God made them so cute so we wouldn't eat them. 🙂
So why all this talk of sinking ships and "women and children first"? I can't remember who within our congregation it was with exactly, but we were talking about how demographically…well…how should I put it…we are a fairly mature group of brothers and sisters. 🙂
Yes, we do have a good number of really young kids blessing us…but we don't have a whole bunch in the way of young families, teenagers, or "almost teens" for that matter. As such, we hope that once our God blesses us with a new minister he'll help bring in more young people.
Not that there is anything wrong with being…err…mature. 🙂
But, even when it comes to church membership isn't it natural to value the young…especially very young children…more than that of those of us whose warrantees have run out and who get to visit the mechanic frequently and also have to take a lot of additives for their gasoline and oil in order for our engines to run smoothly?
There is a reason that politicians often claim they are doing something "for the children." Who would vote against children? Who would dare say that children aren't more important than anyone else?
Which brings me to a sermon I did back in January of 2011 called the hand of God. In it I tried to answer the question, "What kind of hand does God have for us?" Naturally, the best place to figure that out was by looking at the hand of God in the form of God incarnate. Normally I would like to look up as many of these scriptures as possible with you…but it's Sunday night, and I don't want to be responsible for you not getting enough sleep before you head to work Monday morning. 🙂
As I mentioned during that sermon, I knew that Jesus had no aversion to touching us while He was here on our planet, but I was amazed at how many times the Bible mentions Him doing so. For instance…
- He touched a leper to make him clean (Matthew 8:1-3)
- When the sick were brought to him, “he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40)
- He touched Peter's mom's hand and her fever left (Matthew 8:14-15)
- He took the ruler's terminally ill daughter's hand and she arose (Matthew 9:23-25)
- He grabbed Peter so he wouldn't drown when his faith wavered (Matthew 14:28-31)
- He welcomed and laid hands on the children that His disciples tried to shoo away (Matthew 19:13-15)
- He gave sight to the blind man by touching his eyes twice…even if it did mean using spitty mud (Mark 8:23-25).
- He lifted up the demon-possessed boy after exercising the spirit out of him (Mark 9:21-27).
- He laid hands on the woman who could not stand up for 18 years and “immediately she was made straight” (Luke 13:11-13).
- He touched the ear of one of the men who came to arrest him in the Garden and it was no longer cut off (Luke 22:47-51).
- And even after He returned to His glory in heaven, “he laid his right hand on” John after he “fell at his feet as though dead” and told him to “fear not” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Did you notice something about the demographics of that list? Did He seem to have a favorite age group for His hand…and His miracles?
No…sure there were children…but I can't imagine the woman who couldn't stand for 18 years was some kind of spring chicken…and remember that when the sick were brought to him, "he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them." People who needed healing flocked to Jesus…and…as continues today…older people need healing more frequently than younger ones.
And my list for that sermon was limited to those times that Jesus touched people…if you actually read all the gospels you'll find that not only did He love children…He truly was "no respecter of persons"…but in a very positive sense (see Acts 10:34-35 in the King James Version and Deuteronomy 10:17).
Want to confirm that He had just as much concern for the "more mature" as He did kids? I could not remember any case in the Bible where it specifically mentioned someone healed by Jesus as being especially ancient, but let's take a look at Luke 7:12-15:
12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Notice it says that it was "a man who had died" and that she was a widow. My guess is that meant she was a reasonably old person…but Jesus…God incarnate…was so moved by her pain that He raised her son. Neither she nor her son were cute little munchkins…but Jesus' compassion was no less for them.
Since we are already in Luke, let's head forward a chapter and take a look at Luke 8:43-48:
43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, "Who was it that touched me?" When all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!" 46 But Jesus said, "Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me." 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."
Now…if you were going to have to wager on the age of a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years…what do you think the statistical chance that she's not terribly young? Yet, not only does Jesus heal her…and don't tell me that she somehow snuck His power from Him…He takes time to also make her spiritually and mentally whole. If you don't understand what I am trying to say with that comment, just imagine being "unclean" in the eyes of society for 12 years…and out of money. How would your mental state be?
And what's really interesting about this incident is that it's introduction is this:
40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him (Luke 8:40-42).
I don't know about you…but I really get uncomfortable in pushy, claustrophobia-inducing crowds. Yet Jesus didn't just keep moving so He could get someplace far more comfortable. He stopped so that someone who technically made Him unclean would herself feel clean.
But that's not why I actually mentioned the introduction to this incident. Instead it is because the older woman's healing is sandwiched in the story of a twelve year-old girl, Jairus' daughter, being brought back to life. If we kept reading from "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" we would have heard the news that Jairus' daughter was dead, heard the weeping of those at the house, and heard the laughter at Jesus when He said she is just sleeping. We then would have seen it all wrap up with Jesus telling the girl's parents to get her something to eat—after…praise God…raising her from the dead with a touch of the hand of God. Once again, after the miracle Jesus took time to make sure the blessed recipient had all they needed.
In that section of Scripture, Luke 8:40-56, we see how God incarnate cares ever so much about people on both ends of the age spectrum.
Oh…and as a quick aside…as I noted in my "Hand of God" sermon…
And we know from the healing of the Centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13) and the official's son (John 4:46-53) a physical connection wasn't required. Jesus chose to touch every one of them…and in a day where there were no handy bottles of Purel around to disinfect the hands of modern day Howard Hugheses…
God of All
Ultimately it is important that everyone here completely understand that God is a God of "all."
I don't mean "all" as in the obvious fact that He is God of all because He is the only real God. Instead, let's look at the final reference for tonight and specifically watch for the word "all":
2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Timothy 2:1-7).
Were you listening and reading carefully?
- Who should we make "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings" for? [All]
- Who does God desire be saved? [All]
- Who does God desire have knowledge of the truth? [All]
- Who did "the man Christ Jesus" give "himself as a ransom for"? [All]
Our God is a God of "all"…meaning that He cares for "all"…
Pacifier-sucking baby to hearing-aid requiring senior citizen.
As I was working on this sermon, Brandon Heath's “Give Me Your Eyes” came on my iPhone. Now, that's not that miraculous since it is part of the playlist called "Reminder" that I was playing…but it has a haunting line, “All those people going somewhere, why I have I never cared.” Jesus cared…Jesus cares…God cares…for everyone!
As I wrote these words at the Burger King on the corner of Dublin Boulevard and Regional Street I looked out the window to my left. Jesus cares as much about the two cute, bouncy 4 year olds in spiffy white martial arts gear those I saw…
As he does for their father who was keeping a watchful eye at the interesection…
As he does for the Harley rider who stopped at the same corner…
As he did for the minivan driver who annoyed me by driving up and blocking my view… 🙂
So, as we continue to pray for a new minister, let's be sure to find one who has the same heart as Jesus did. Someone who will care for you who are far closer to the your century mark then you are to your birth as much as he will for babies, toddlers, tweens, teenagers, 30-somethings, the middle-aged…
For whatever other age category that exists.
And let's not prejudge what God wants the demographic age makeup of our congregation to be. Senior citizens need a church just as much as crumb-munchers. Having a rather large number for our average age 🙂 doesn't mean we are doing something wrong or that God isn't blessing us.
Instead, let's pray that our Lord find us faithful in whatever ministry He has for us…and that we are open to finding out what His will is…whether it fits our presuppositions and expectations or not.
God is a god of pacifiers and hearing aids…
Because, per 1 Timothy 4:10:
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
1Henderson, J. (1998, June). Demographics of the TITANIC Passengers: Deaths, Survivals, and Lifeboat Occupancy. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/titanic.html