The Sunday Sermonette – Rescued From An Inferno. October 1, 2023.

                The North Atlantic has always been a treacherous body of water. It can be viciously stormy, icebergs can lurk in its darkness, fog can cut visibility to zero, and submarines can creep beneath its waves. It’s been home to floating palaces like the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Andrea Doria. It’s also been home to humble tramp steamers and cargo liners. One such modest ship was the SS Volturno.

               The Volturno plied the Atlantic between Rotterdam and New York, carrying passengers from all walks of life, most of whom were immigrants. For those who boarded her on an icy cold day in October 1913, little did they know that 135 of their number, mostly women and children, would never see Liberty’s shining torch in New York’s harbor.

               On that ill-fated voyage, deep in the ship’s holds, she carried a cargo of chemicals, oils, rags, peat moss, and large quantities of wine and spirits—all of which were highly flammable. How the conflagration began was never discovered, although most believe it was spontaneous combustion among oily rags. The blazing inferno quickly spread, and the cargo holds in the ship’s bow were engulfed in flames. Teak decks burned. Steel girders twisted from the heat. Deadly smoke bellowed into the air. The steamer burned into the night, lighting the black sky above her, her Captain and crew fearing she might sink at any moment.

               By morning, eleven ships had come to her rescue. Due to high winds and a stormy sea, they were of little help. The pounding waves sunk many lifeboats that went to help the Volturno. Her launched lifeboats met the same fate, hence the significant loss of life to women and children. The ship’s Captain and crew fought the fires with all the muscle they could muster. All seemed lost until, at last, the sea calmed a bit, and one of the rescue ships poured oil on the water. The oil calmed the sea, lifeboats were filled, and the ship was abandoned—a blazing, smoking inferno left to its fate.

               In the aftermath of the sinking, a passenger aboard one of the rescue ships wrote: “One cannot pay too high a tribute to the heroism of those who manned the various rescue ships assembled, without distinction to race. Here were assembled the ships of many nations: Great Britain, the United States, Germany, France, and Russia. Assuredly, here was proof that in hours of great stress, nationality does not count.”       

               When I read this, I could not help but compare the Volturno’s fiery death with Judgement Day. On that day, your nationality, race, money, and power will mean nothing. You can call for help, but there will be no “flotilla” of rescue ships to help save you, nor will there be “oil” to calm the raging seas of your fear and the burning horror that Judgement Day has arrived. However, you need not fear that day because you have another oil that’s available to you! It’s the calming oil of eternal salvation that only comes from believing in and obeying the Carpenter of Nazareth, Jesus Christ. And if you do believe, you will be rescued from an inferno called Hell.

               Ponder this and go forward.