by | Jun 7, 1998 | Remembering

The Irish people can remember well the terrible potato famine that wiped out a million people around 150 years ago. You can read the graphic story in Leon Uris’ blockbuster novel, ‘Trinity’. Many hundreds of thousands left Ireland for the New World, or Australia and New Zealand searching for a new life.

One of these was a penniless boy who hid as a stowaway on an immigrant ship bound for America. In the mid-Atlantic the ship hit an iceberg and began to sink, but there was enough time to get everybody into life-boats. Deep down in the bowels of the ship the boy wondered why the ship had stopped and as he emerged from his hiding place there was no-one around. He came up on deck just as the captain was about to step into the last seat of the last life-boat. In the highest tradition of the sea, the captain stepped back and put the boy in his place, and as the life-boat was pushed off, he said to the lad: ‘Never forget what has been done for you’.

As the life-boat pulled away, the lad could see the captain standing on the deck, and that vision never left him. He became a successful businessman in the New World, and when people asked him about the secret of his achievement he always told the story of the captain giving his life for him and how he was urged to never forget what had been done for him. “Whenever I get discouraged and feel negatively about myself,” he said, “I recall the vision of what has been done for me and it gives me new courage to keep on keeping on to be worthy of such a price.”

To lay down one’s life for another is the supreme sacrifice yet there have been many times during wars or disasters when that sacrifice has been made. It is a sacrifice that is almost impossible to comprehend in the natural and we may have asked ourselves when reading of such heroism, ‘could I do that’? Another question may also arise, ‘how could I ever repay such a sacrifice’? The answer must be that repayment would be impossible. But we would surely have a responsibility to take full advantage of such a sacrifice, as did our stowaway on the sinking ship – he went on to success but never forgot the price that was paid by another. How wrong it would be to forget that sacrifice or to cheapen it by failing to grasp the new opportunity or the new life it provided.

Jesus gave his life for us on the cross of Calvary. When we celebrate Holy Communion and read that well-known passage of scripture from 1st Corinthians chapter 11, Jesus says to each one of us, “This is my body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Let us never forget that sacrifice and let us not cheapen it by failing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus or by falling short of the new life presented to us.

Have a good week. Pastor Ron Clarke