Summary: This sermon highlights a person who had been graced by God to mourn without bitterness, to sorrow without anger, to trust without resentment, and to rest in the peace of Christ which surpasses every man’s understanding.
Money! One thing that I have learned as a Pastor is that people worry about money. Even when I meet with couples that are planning to get married money is a number one concern.
Worrying about money is said to be one of the biggest concerns in our society today. And even if it is not money, most of us worry about something. And yet to worry is like sitting on a rocking chair, because even though you are doing something you are in fact going nowhere.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus told his disciples not to worry. Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, or what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
And the point being; why worry when you can have faith in God. And why worry when you know that God has always taken care of his creation. “Look at the birds of the air; (For example) they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
There is a Hymn entitled “When Peace Like a River” that I would like to bring to your attention today because I think the hymn is a wonderful expression of faith and trust in God even in spite of the raging storms that threaten to overwhelm us.
The hymn is an amazing expression of hope in the face of almost unimaginable grief. It is a hymn that we all have probably sung many times, but I bet few of us know the trauma behind the hymn. After all, the words to the hymn come from a man who had just experienced losses that most of us would find hard to cope with.
And yet the man maintained a deep love for the Lord. In the words of one biographer, “This hymn reveals a person who had been graced by God to mourn without bitterness, to sorrow without anger, to trust without resentment, and to rest in the peace of Christ which surpasses every man’s understanding.”
Let me then introduce you to this amazing man and his family, and share with you the events that led up to, and followed the writing of this Hymn.
The hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer named Horatio Spafford. Now, you might be tempted to think that a man who wrote such a beautiful hymn would have been a rich and successful man and had everything going well for him.
But you would be wrong. Horatio was a man who suffered one personal tragedy after another.
Now to begin the story behind the hymn, I think you need to know that Horatio and his wife were well-known in Chicago in the late 19th century. And this was not just because of his legal career and business endeavors.
Horatio and his wife Anna were close friends of D.L. Moody, a famous Evangelist in the 19th Century who was the Billy Graham of the time.
Well, in 1870 things started to go very badly for Horatio. His only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. And then a year later all of the real estate holdings that he had accumulated on the shores of Lake Michigan were destroyed by the Great Fire of Chicago.
And so aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on him and his family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters to England for a much needed vacation.
Thus in the fall of 1873, Horatio and his family traveled to New York so they could catch a French steamer that would take them across the Atlantic. And while they were waiting for the steamer to leave port, a business development was brought to Horatio’s attention which forced him to return to Chicago.
Not wanting to ruin the family vacation, Horatio persuaded his family to go ahead without him and he would catch up with then as soon as he could.
So Anna and the four daughters sailed east to England and Horatio headed west to Chicago to take care of business. Sadly, nine days later, Horatio received a telegram from his wife in Wales that simply said: ‘Saved Alone.”
On the night of November 2nd, 1873 the steamer that Anna and the four children were on collided with another ship and sunk in 12 minutes claiming the lives of 226 people.
It is said that as Anna stood on deck, her four children tried desperately to cling to her but were washed away by the force of the water as the ship went down.
Sadly all four children drowned – and Anna herself was only saved when her unconscious body came to rest on a piece of lumber from the wreck which somehow propped her up.