Wreck of the SS Cedarville

Wreck of the SS Cedarville
Between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, there is a stretch of water known as the Straits of Mackinac. (Pronounced mack-in-awe) This narrow channel connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Nearby is a museum which tells the story of shipwrecks in the Straits. One of those was the wreck of the SS Cedarville in the early morning of May 7, 1965.

The Cedarville was carrying a heavy load of limestone and traveling through the straits in dense fog. In spite of low visibility Captain Martin Joppich kept the ship moving at top speed. He even ordered the wheelsman to cut corners off the official shipping channel to save time. Radar detected two oncoming vessels. One of them was identified as the Norwegian freighter Topdalsfjord. Captain Joppich ordered the crew to reduce speed and steer starboard to pass the Topdalsfjord on the port side. In doing that, the Cedarville steered directly into the path of the Topdalsfjord. The Norwegian ship sliced a large hole into the side of the Cedarville.

Captain Joppich ordered the crew to stop the engines and drop anchor. The crew prepared the lifeboats, but no order was given to abandon ship. The ship was starting to list to port, so the crew began to fill the starboard ballast tanks. The captain then ordered the crew to raise anchor and steer the ship to shallow water six miles (10 km) away. By the time they had gone just over two miles (3.3 km), the ship rolled over and sank.

Of the 35 crew members, ten of them died in the wreck of the SS Cedarville. What mistakes did the captain make? The Cedarville was going too fast for foggy conditions. The ship steered the wrong way into the path of another vessel. The crew was not given orders to abandon ship. There was another area of shallow water only two miles (3.2 km) away that they might have reached before sinking. All of these things were caused by the captain making bad decisions.

A plaque at the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum says, “To some degree, all wrecks in the Straits of Mackinac were avoidable. Someone exercised bad judgment or performed their duties incorrectly. In many instances, several people made many small errors, each individually, but momentous when combined with others. As a result, ships went down while passengers and crewmembers died.” The wreck of the SS Cedarville is only one example.

The plaque says the real cause of wrecks is people. How often do people cause wrecks and destruction to their own lives or the lives of others and then blame God for the pain? Does God allow us to make bad choices? Yes, but when we make those bad choices, we should put the blame where it belongs, and not on God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Mary Mother of Jesus and Choices

Mother and Son

Christians see Mary mother of Jesus as a woman who demonstrates what a mother should be. The angel told Mary, “Hail O favored one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:30). Mary’s response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). That is an incredible response because it is so unselfish and full of faith.

Mary’s name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “bitter.” Indeed what Mary was about to endure in the culture of her day would be bitter. She was going to be pregnant with a child when she was not married. Her husband-to-be would be under pressure to break off their relationship. She would have no visible means of support. Jesus would be born as an illegitimate child and would have the scorn of those around him. People would ridicule Mary’s claim that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Even after Jesus was born, Mary’s life would not be easy. Shortly after the birth of the baby, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have to flee to Egypt. There she would experience a culture and a language she did not know. Joseph’s occupation was carpentry, which was not financially or socially prestigious. Matthew 13:55 shows the attitude of people to Joseph’s common trade and his family of four sons and more than one daughter, in addition to Jesus. Joseph apparently died before Jesus began his ministry and Jesus was required by law to care for his mother. At his crucifixion, Jesus turned Mary’s care over to his disciple John (John 19:26).

Portrayals of Mary by artists show her as a beautiful woman, but physical beauty is not the emphasis given to us in the Bible. Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.” What we see in Mary is a spiritual woman whose first love is God. She was praised by Elizabeth saying, “Blessed are you for believing that the things that the Lord has said to you will be done” (Luke 1:45). Mary responded by saying, “My heart is overflowing with the praise of the Lord and my spirit has found joy in God for He has regarded the humble state of His bondslave” (Luke 1:46- 48).

Christianity has elevated all women, and the Bible portrays Mary as a woman who is everything God calls women to be. When Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 about women being saved through childbirth, he gave us a picture of a role that women can choose. Mary had the strength to accept and live that role. She did it by choice, not because she was forced to accept it. No man can ever have such an opportunity. The Bible makes it clear that Mary had a choice, and she chose well.
–John N. Clayton © 2017