On Sunday, May 3rd, I preached the funeral of a 20 year old young man who touched many lives. Over a thousand people came through our Church to greet the family of Drew Villar. In preparing to preach to his grieving parents, family and friends, I was drawn to the poem "My Boy Jack" by Rudyard Kipling.
Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular men in the world in the early part of the 20th century primarily because of his literary works, not the least of which was The Jungle Book, which we have enjoyed even to this day because of Walt Disney animation. In 1907 at the height of his career, Kipling won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Rudyard Kipling was intensely patriotic for his native Great Britain and his patriotism only intensified as World War I began. It was a time when all young British men entered military training and went off to fight against German aggression. Swept up into this movement was Kipling’s own son “Jack” who despite being blind without his glasses, an automatic disqualifier for military service, Kipling used his influence to get Jack enlisted. Shortly, after being shipped to France, Jack died in the battle of Loos, gunned down in"no man's land" of trench warfare. During this time, the winds of war and tide of news were often marked by great sadness. The news of their sons’ death devastated Kipling and his wife. As they wrestled with grief and guilt, he wrote:
'Have you news of my boy Jack?'
Not this tide.
'When d'you think that he'll come back?'
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
'Has anyone else had word of him?'
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.
'Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?'
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind-
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
Written 90 years ago, Kipling’s question is our question too. “O dear, what comfort can I find?”
Many try to find comfort in the humanistic tripe of our age reflected best in the words of William Ernest Henley's, "I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul." But we know that is not true. I mean really? When you are traveling on an airplane at 39,000 the last thing anyone can say honestly is that they are the master of their fate and the captain of their soul!
Others try to find comfort in self-help or academic pursuits or relationships. Many are drinking at the fountains of materialism believing that if they just have more they will be satisfied. More money, more stuff, more toys. However, when we exit this world's story, everything stays.
When the weight of last Sunday registers in our grieving minds and hearts, we need Someone who can handle it. One whose life and work and promises are sturdy to support us. We need Someone that won't blow away in the wind.….that Someone is Jesus Christ.
His life, death and resurrection stand over history as the prevailing message of hope for lost sinners. He has given the Rock of Himself for us to rest upon and says to the weary, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly at heart and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) In Him, we find our comfort. This tide and every tide.