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The Lighthouse

by HW in HI

based on Matthew 4:12-23

Good morning. I want to talk a little bit this morning about a lighthouse. When I was a little kid, there was a lighthouse at Makapu’u on Oahu, and one at Lanikai near Kailua. Are there any lighthouses around here?

Well, this is a story about a lighthouse. This lighthouse is on a dangerous coast where there are a lot of shipwrecks. This lighthouse was very simple, and had just one boat. But the people who volunteered there were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. Looking for ships in distress. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost.

So many lives were saved by that lighthouse that it became famous. Then a lot of people wanted to be associated with it, and give their time, talent, and money to support the important work of the lighthouse. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, and they had a formal training session. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so simple and that the equipment was so old. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with soft beds and put in better furniture and enlarged and decorated the place.

The lighthouse became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, you could see how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared the events of their lives.

But something funny happened. Fewer and fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. Then a big ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting of the lighthouse members there was disagreement. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and expensive. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called to be a lighthouse and a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast.

And they did. As the years passed, the new lighthouse experienced the same changes that had taken place in the old. The new lighthouse became a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new lighthouse. So another life-saving lighthouse was started further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself.

If we were to visit this coast today, we would find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks still happen, but most people drown.

That story was written by Thomas Wedel almost 50 years ago. Today we have modern radios and Loran for ships to communicate. But I’m guessing that story was about more than lighthouses.

Today we hear in the gospel that Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."

They could not resist. Jesus said follow me, and they put down their nets, and follwed him. Probably they followed out of curiousity. Perhaps they were young and impetuous. Maybe. But I bet that there was just something about Jesus that called out to them. Something they couldn’t resist. Jesus said, ‘You like to fish. Come fish for people.” He could have said, ‘You like to garden, come grow some people.’ Or you like to rope, come rope a few lost souls.’ Or even, ‘You like to shop, I’ll teach you how to shop for souls.’ Because Jesus isn’t really talking about fishing or gardening or roping or shopping. And Wedel was not really writing about lighthouses and shipwrecks.

Jesus is saying, ‘Hey, come follow me; it’ll change your life. Oh, and by the way, you have to spread the word.’

Jesus didn’t say to Andrew and Peter, ‘Come follow me and maybe you can fish for people.’ It’s not optional. Jesus said, ‘Come follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.’

If we choose to follow Jesus, we must spread the word. When Wedel said ‘Shipwrecks still happen’, he meant, there are a lot of people out there who need God in their lives.

The lighthouse is us. The lighthouse is St. James’. We can choose to spread the Good News of Jesus, like the lighthouse did at first. Or we can admit that it is hard work, dirty work, messy and costly. And ditch the whole thing. Or maybe not really ditch it, just a little bit of it. We could keep enough of a life saving effort going to look like a lighthouse, but not enough to get our hands dirty.

In a little bit we will start our annual meeting. Some of you will go home, because you are not really strong enough to sit through the meeting. That’s okay. There’s next year. But for all the rest of us, let’s remember that we are God’s lighthouse. I am asking you to come and see to it that we do God’s work. Not just to speak your mind, but to commit your whole self. At St. James’ we are a great meeting place, but we also have strong boats. Let’s not take them out of the water. Let’s go ahead and put out to sea, fishing for people, even if the water is rough.