Thursday, August 23, 2018

Our Lighthouse

As I picked up my son at Cross Roads Camp last week they opened worship with a catchy song called "My Lighthouse."  The refrain goes:

My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore+

The National Park Service states in its educational materials for school children: The two main purposes of a lighthouse are to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas. It is like a traffic sign on the sea.*  These two purposes can be used to describe the role of a living faith in Jesus Christ quite effectively.   Christ as our lighthouse can warn of us the dangers of living in a world bound to sin and death so that we do not crash upon its rocks and reefs.  Christ can also provide direction for our life by giving us fixed point to point our rudders to.   When the waves of our culture and the winds work to disorient us, the lighthouse stands firm to illuminate the way home.  The lighthouse is a wonderful metaphor of how Christ can help us live a better life.

As we move into the fall, we will be working in our worship with the texts in Mark's Gospel that describe the ministry of Jesus as he approaches the cross. The actions of Jesus in these texts work like the lighthouse; they warn us of the rocks and they also point our lives in a direction of well being. 

One my favorite texts, which comes up in October, is the short account of the healing of a blind man named Bartimaeus. His encounter with Jesus corresponds to our theme.   Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:51-52 (NRSV)  According to Jesus, it was Bartimaeus's faith that saved him, it did so by helping him see and giving him a direction to go.

Regular Bible readers may bring up the point that the lighthouse is not an image directly mentioned in the original biblical texts, and they are right.  Both in the Old Testament and the Gospels, herding, desert and agricultural images predominate.  This should not stop us from using this imagery, especially if it helps someone understand the grace of God. There are indeed some maritime images in the Psalms, the letters of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, and of course the book of Jonah, but a lighthouse is never mentioned anywhere in the original texts.  A quick search in my Bible software application brought up only one instance where the word "lighthouse" was used any biblical translation.   It was used in Eugene Peterson's The Message.   

"I am God. I have called you to live right and well.
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe.
I have set you among my people to bind them to me,
and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations
, Isaiah 42:6 (MSG)

Using the word lighthouse in this context is really profound.   Isaiah 42 is one of the passages that describes Israel as the servant of God who is the light to the nations.  Christians have long seen the work of Jesus Christ in its words.  Jesus suffering and death serves to show the world how far God will go to show that we are loved.  What I like about Peterson's use of lighthouse in this context is that when Isaiah first wrote these words, he wanted to show how the people of Israel together could be the light to the nations.   They were called to show people the way to God.  If Jesus is my lighthouse and together with my fellow Christians we are the Body of Christ, then we can be the lighthouse.  We can warn of the dangers and show the way home.  This is the work of the church. 

Yes, we have at times failed in this work.  Current headlines remind us of those who used what should be lighthouse to the nations for their own demonic ends.  Between sexual predators and con-artist prosperity preachers it can at times the church is more of black hole than a lighthouse, but we should not give up or give in.  God's call is clear and the light of Christ shines to show us the way to a better shore.  Just because others chose not to steer toward the light and were wrecked in the dark, doesn't mean that the light is not there.   The lives of faithful Christians inspired by the Holy Spirit have helped me and others countless times to avoid obstacles and find the right way to go.  So I invite you to let Jesus be your lighthouse, and that by living as he guides us we can be a lighthouse for others.

Be blessed,
Pastor Knecht


+Songwriters: Gareth Gilkeson / Chris Llewellyn My Lighthouse lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group