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
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, this 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.
This 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?
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.