My father-in-law, Dave, died of pancreatic cancer this month. He was buried four days after he died. One week after that, yesterday, we held a memorial service.
We sang the hymn Master the Tempest is Raging. This hymn was one of Dave’s favorites. His niece read it to him the day he died. He was shrunken, skeletal, and unmoving on his deathbed. She was shocked when tears ran down his face, because she thought his consciousness had already departed. But he was cognizant, aware of all that we were saying up until the very end. Those words were meaningful to him.
The song portrays the time when Christ was sleeping in a boat, and a storm threatened to sink it. His terrified disciples woke him with the words, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” We sang the song at his memorial service. These words made many of us weep,
“No waters can swallow the ship were lies the Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.”
My father-in-law was such a vessel. He carried Christ with him wherever he went. He was an obedient servant of God, and a citizen of the city of God. His sincere efforts to obey God made him a good man, a good husband, a good father, and a really sweet grandfather.
The tempests came to swallow him. He carried financial burdens, physical burdens, emotional burdens, enough to swallow a man. But Christ was with him, and he was able to weather the storm. His death brought his family closer together, and his life inspired us to live better. A vessel that carries Christ bears many souls across troubled water.
There are millions like him, blending in with the rest of us. They are the leaven that sweetens the loaf. They are the kingdom of God on Earth. Their goodness strengthens our nations and makes our neighborhoods pleasant places to live. They shine a light, letting us know that the kingdom of God is among us, and it can be within us if we, too, will take up the cross.