Be a Lighthouse (Vision and Mission part 1)

Today marks the start of a bit of a series that I’m going to preach on over the next few weeks. My reasoning for doing this is for a couple of parts. Firstly, I want us to hold a very clear picture in our heads as to who we are. We don’t have a building at the moment, and that’s ok, because the Church isn’t the building – but, at the same time, we’re all getting used to being slightly uncomfortable, and not knowing who we are – or more so, how we can be who we are. Secondly, I want to make sure that when we do get back into our building that we’re ready and raring to go, and that everything we start, everything we do, is coming out of our Vision and Mission.

Now we all know what our vision is, right? To be a lighthouse to the community, so that others can experience the life changing power and freedom found in Jesus. And our Mission is the four mission intentions of The Salvation Army: Transforming Lives, Caring for People, Making Disciples, and Reforming Society. Over the next six weeks (5 of my sermons, plus a Kidzone Sunday next week, because our Kids are a vital part of our church), we’ll look at our vision, and the four aspects of the mission, and the following week, you’ll have an opportunity to share some ideas with me as to how we are doing that, what we could be doing better, and maybe some new ideas that we can look into.

So today, we’re looking at our vision, and I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. When I first heard it, I wasn’t convinced about it. I mean, the message that was in there was great, I just wasn’t certain about the lighthouse part of it. I thought it was just a way to make it relevant to the community – because of the Bluff Lighthouse – with the main intent to be a light to the community. See to me, a Light is something portable, something that will head out into the community. A lighthouse was something static, that didn’t move. I wasn’t convinced. But, now that I think about it, now that I’ve explored it, I believe that there’s no truer representation of our church – and what I believe our church needs to be – than a lighthouse, and I’m going to explore that aspect of our vision today.

What is a lighthouse

So I guess the important thing to think about firstly is what is a lighthouse. As it’s the first thing that you hear in our vision, it’s the thing that people latch onto. If someone was to come up to you on the street and ask what The Salvation Army Devonport is all about, you might say “we’re trying to be a lighthouse to the community”. So we need to know what that really means to us.

It is a central point for people to look for

The first thing that I think about when I think about a lighthouse is that it’s a central point for people to look for. When a sailor is navigating on the water, the light of a lighthouse can help them to work out where they are. It can also help them to work out how far away from it they are as well.

It shows people the way

Did you know that there are different types of lighthouses as well? There’s the standard, single lighthouse, which often points out danger, but then there’s another lighthouse system which incorporates two lights, and that helps to show sailors the way to go. Line up those two lights, and you can know that by following those two lights, you’ll be safe.

Shows evil for what it is

The second thing that I think of about a lighthouse is that it shows evil for what it is. Think about it – You don’t put a lighthouse in the middle of deep, open waters to say “Look here, everything’s ok!” No, Lighthouses are generally used to show where the rocks are, the reefs, the islands where ships could find danger. A lighthouse alerts the passing ships that there’s danger about, and to be careful.

Shines light into the darkness

A lighthouse also shines light into the darkness. It doesn’t work during the daylight, but only during darkness, when people need it most.

Is a place of Safety near danger

phares dans la tempte: "La Jument"Finally, the last thing I think about is this image. Here we have a man, presumably one who works at the lighthouse, who is standing outside the door, while massive waves crash around him. Now, we don’t know the full situation there, but I reckon he felt quite safe there. See, while Lighthouses are quite often near danger, they are a place of safety near danger. They’re built strong to withstand the many dangers that they face – whether wind, waves or other things. If you’re inside that lighthouse, you know that it doesn’t matter how big those waves get, you’re going to be safe.

How can we as a church be a lighthouse

So if that’s what a lighthouse is, we then have to work out how that relates to us as a church, and similarly, I see us being a lighthouse in those same ways that I thought what a lighthouse is.

If we are to be a lighthouse, then we must be a central point for people to look for. We must be like what Jesus said in Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same lay, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.” We need to be open and visible to the community, so that people know who, what and where we are, and what we stand for. We won’t hide away, but let our light shine before all, so they may see our good works and give glory to God.

If we are to be a lighthouse, we must show people the way. In John 14, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Everything that we do must uphold Jesus as the way to God, and promote living in a way that follows Christ’s teachings as the way to a truly joyful life. We must uphold the scriptures of the old and new testaments as the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

If we are to be a lighthouse, then we must show evil for what it is. In John 3, which we looked at last week, it says “this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” Where we see evil in the world, in our community, we must expose it for what it is.

At the same time, if we are to be a lighthouse then we must shine a light into the darkness. In our reading today, we heard “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Martin Luther King Jr said something similar, that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” When we see evil, yes, we must expose it, but we do that by showing the light of Christ into the situation, and that light is love.

Did you know how far the light from a lighthouse goes? Of course, it varies depending on the lighthouse, but for the Mersey Bluff lighthouse, it’s about 30km. If you were to draw a line 30km North, South, East and West from our Corps, 30km from corpsthis is the area that our light would reach. It’s out to Penguin in the west, Down past Sheffield to the south, and out past Port Sorrell and even past Bakers Beach. The light of our love can shine out past just our little town of Devonport, but even as far as what’s shown here.

And finally, if we are to be a lighthouse, we must be a place of safety near danger. In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Jesus was indeed a friend of sinners – he ate with Tax Collectors, he talked with prostitutes, he touched lepers. The people that society rejected found safety with Jesus. They found acceptance with Jesus. If we are to be a lighthouse, then we must also be a place where people can feel safe and accepted – whether they are accepted by society or not. If we are to live up to our vision, then we must live like Jesus – and not care or judge what people are, but love them all the same.

Do you wanna be a lighthouse?

But, we must also remember that the church isn’t just the building. Our corps isn’t located just at 166 William St. Bridget Willard said “Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.” If we, as a collective church, are going to fulfil our vision, I hate to say it, but you can’t leave it up to me. I can’t do it all. If we’re going to fulfil this vision, then we must all live this. We must all be lighthouses in the communities that we live in.

Outline of corps membersThis image here is where we live as a corps. All of us live somewhere within that green polygon. If I extend that out 30km from out northern, eastern, southern and western most addresses, this is the area that we cover. That’s out past George town, Lower Turners Marsh and Bangor in the east, Mole Creek, Mayberry and Caveside in the south, and Riana in the West. If we can all be lighthouses in the places where we live, how much more effective as a corps will we be?30km outer reaches

So, if you’re going to be a lighthouse, you must be a central point for people to look for. Now, I’m not talking about being so loud that everybody takes notice of you – though, if you are that naturally, then brilliant. What I’m talking about is living in such a way that people sit up and take notice, and ask the question, “Why is this person like that? What’s so different about them?”

If you’re going to be a lighthouse, you must show people the way. You need to be willing to share your story with people. If someone comes up to you and asks you, “Why are you like that?” You’ll be able to share with them how Jesus has changed your life, and that he can do the same for them too.

If you’re going to be a lighthouse, you must show evil for what it is. Stand up for those who are being bullied, stand up for those who have no voice. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you see something that’s wrong.

If you’re going to be a lighthouse, you must shine light into the darkness. The only way we’re going to reach as far as that last image showed is if we make love our default response. If we show love everywhere we go, then the love of God will extend from us and into our communities.

And finally, if you’re going to be a lighthouse, you must be a place of safety near danger. Be welcoming to all who you come into contact with, and show them that love that is shown to you by Jesus. Don’t judge, as judgement is left to God alone. Just love them, everyone that you come in contact with, whether they’re accepted by the community or not. Love them.

I truly believe that we, as a church, are called to be a lighthouse to our community, and that we do need to be a place for people to look to, that we need to show evil for what it is, show the way, which is Jesus, and shine light and love into their darkness, while being a place of safety near danger. But, as I said, we can’t do any of that unless we have many more lighthouses out in the community. Together, we can let others experience the life changing power and freedom found in Jesus.

A few months ago, I introduced a song at a kidzone meeting called “We are” – and the chorus says “We are the light of the world, we are the city on the hill.” The Second verse says “We are called to spread the news, Tell the world the simple truth, Jesus came to save, there’s freedom in His Name, So let it all break through.” If you believe that you’re called to spread the news, and to tell the world the simple truth, I would ask you to stand when we get to that verse, and commit to being a lighthouse in the community where you live.

Get out of the Birdcage

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Get out of the Birdcage, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 13 July, 2014. The Reading was John 3:14-21

How good are you at making a choice? Let’s play a little game. I’ll have two pictures on the screen, if you would choose the one on the right, put your hand up. If you choose the one on the left, leave your hand down.

  • Coke or Pepsi
  • Chocolate or Chips
  • James Bond or Indiana Jones
  • Star Wars or The Notebook
  • 7 course degustation  or Steak and 3 Veg
  • “Chucking a sickie” or full day of work
  • Blowing your own trumpet or giving a compliment to someone else

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Discerning the upside down

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Discerning the upside down, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 29 June, 2014. The Reading was Jeremiah 28:1-9

Have you ever had an argument with someone, where the only possibility to determine who is right is to wait and see how things play out? Liesl and I have these almost every week. Not big arguments, mind you, but I’ll tip the Bulldogs, and tell her that she’s silly for tipping Melbourne. The only way that we’ll know for sure is to wait and see how the game plays out.

Or maybe I’ll tell her that she’ll really enjoy Star Wars Episode VII, and she’ll say that she can’t stand Star Wars. The only way we’ll ever find out is if she sits down and watches it with me when it comes out. Continue reading

Called to be Holy

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Called to be Holy, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 15 June, 2014. The Reading was Matthew 28:16-20

Have you ever felt that you were too small to really make a difference? Thinking, “this town is too big for me to make a difference” or “how can I make a difference in this world that is so large” or “why would anyone listen to me?”

One of my best friends is absolutely incredible. She’s lived an incredible life – which is another talk in itself – and has been through all sorts of things in that time as well. In 2009, Daena committed to completing one random act of kindness each day, until her 25th birthday. She opened it up so that others could submit their acts of kindness as well, in the hope of getting 1000 acts of kindness by her birthday. Since then, she’s committed to completing a random act of kindness every day, and has done so – apart from a recent 3 month hiatus due to significant family issues – up until this date. On her blog, she says that she is “just an ordinary person looking to make a difference to the world, one small act of kindness at a time.”

I’m reminded of a story from the bible, where 5000 men, with women and children on top of that, were gathered, listening to Jesus teaching. With the crowd being hungry, Jesus poses the question to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered saying that “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Then Andrew pipes up, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves, and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Continue reading

The Best Gift of all time

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Best Gift of all time, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 8 June, 2014, Pentecost Sunday. The Reading was Acts 2:1-21

What was the best gift that you’ve ever been given? Think back over all your birthdays, Christmas, random gifts just for being gorgeous, what was the best gift that you’ve ever received?

907470Wikipedia_SNES_PALWhen I think back, there’s three gifts that really stand out for me. I’ve brought two of them here today, so I’ll talk first about the one I don’t have. Back when I was about 10, for my birthday I was given a SNES by my parents. This was my first gaming console, and started me on a wonderful journey of gaming that progressed through the Gameboy, N64 and eventually onto PC gaming. I don’t really want to admit how much money I’ve spent on gaming products, but that first system, that SNES, that holds a special place because it was, for me, my first introduction to the world of gaming.

The picture of how I had my room painted.

The picture of how I had my room painted.

The second gift was this painting, which is currently normally hangs in our lounge room. This was my 21st birthday present from my parents. I was repainting my room, and I wanted it to reflect my love of the violin. So we colourmatched my violin, and I painted two black F-holes on the wall, and we chose this painting to hang between them. I look at this painting, and I remember back to my 21st, I think of my parents, and the support they’ve given me over the years.

Finally, we come to this, my violin. The label says that it is a 1796 Josef Klotz, however it’s actually a copy, made around 1900 by an unknown German luthier. When I started to take the violin seriously, I needed a better quality violin than the one that I had, which was a 1995 Chinese copy of a Stradivarius. My dad knew of this woman, who had lent him this violin when I first started. She offered to lend me the violin while I was taking my exams.

My violin

My violin

All through high school, and then into University, I played this instrument. I learnt it, and through playing its tone which had sat dormant for many years, developed and became my tone. But while it was my tone, I knew that it wasn’t my instrument, and that one day I would need to give it back. My thought was that once I finished my university degree, that I would need to give it back. I played my graduation recital, and invited the owner of the violin to come to dinner afterwards. At dinner, she announced that the violin was now mine, that it was her gift to me. So while those other two gifts were incredible, if push came to shove, I would have to say that this was the best gift I ever received. Continue reading

The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 18 May, 2014. The Reading was Luke 18:1-30

On Tuesday night, I sat myself down at my computer, loaded up the live stream of ABC24 and watched Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget speech. Due to the numerous leaks and strategic misinformation that was around, I was prepared for a lot of what would be presented. But that still didn’t make it any easier. In a word, ouch.

There’s a lot of pain in that budget, and in some ways the only upside that I can see is that we will be getting a lot more people through our doors, just that they’ll all be for our Doorways service. But as I thought about how this budget would affect our nation, I turned to the teachings of Jesus. And I wrote a whole sermon out, and then last night I threw it away and started again. When I returned to the passage, and widened my view, I saw that Jesus’ teaching throughout this chapter, and even the passage following, Jesus’ parables and teaching is just as relevant for us today as it was to those he was with back then. Continue reading

Living Lives of Love

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Living lives of love, was given at Devonport Salvation Army on Sunday 16 February, 2014. The Bible reading was Matthew 5:17-37.

I wonder what your families were like when you were growing up. Were there any topics of conversation that you didn’t talk about? Maybe football was completely off the table – bring it up and you’d get sent to your room. Or maybe it was politics, or religion. In my Dad’s family, the taboo topic was divorce. You didn’t talk about it when my grandparents were in the room – it just wasn’t done. And I don’t know why, because it was the sort of thing that, while we did ignore it, it didn’t ignore our family. In fact, the only one of my Dad’s family who hasn’t got divorced is my Dad. All this in a family where Divorce just wasn’t talked about. Looking back, I would say that the divorce was a good thing for all of my aunties and uncles. So when I look at today’s reading, and I read Jesus speak out so harshly against divorce, I have a bit of trouble accepting that. I’m not saying that I advocate divorce – I think it’s a shocking indictment on the church that there are just as many divorces within the church as there are outside of the church – but I feel like there must be more to this passage than the first, initial reading. Continue reading

Read your Bible!

“More than anything, this truly is the living word.”

How many of you believe everything that you see on TV? What about everything that you read in the newspaper? What about everything that you read online? Because if it’s on the internet, that makes it true doesn’t it? How many of you believe what is written in the Bible?

What do you spend more time on – reading the Bible, or reading Facebook? Continue reading

The Problem with Proof Texts

I’ve restarted reading a book that I started a little while ago, and it reminded me of a problem that I picked up the first time, which was the use of proof texts. For those that may not be familiar with the term, a proof text is the practice of extracting a verse or couple of verses from the Bible in order to prove your point. What happens is that the verse is often stripped of its context, and as such may not actually mean what it is being said to mean.


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The Faith of the Bikie

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Faith of the Bikie, was given at Waverley Temple Salvation Army on Sunday 27 October, 2013. The Bible reading was Luke 18:9-14.

Honest question, right here and now: Who heard this story and thought to themselves, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee”? Continue reading