From the patio outside the apartment we are staying in, I can see a lighthouse out on the far bluff. I did some research and have found out that Hams Bluff Lighthouse has no longer been in operation since the mid 1990s. The lighthouse was built by the Danish and first lit in 1915. When the Danish West Indies were transferred to the United States in 1917, the responsibilities for the lighthouse were shifted to the United States Lighthouse Service and later to the US Coast Guard.
Today, Hams Bluff Lighthouse sits on the northwest corner of St. Croix, USVI unused, rusting away. A visit to the bluff allowed me to see firsthand the rust and decay that is occuring. Climbing up the ladder and standing on the rusted floor full of holes and missing sections is not for the faint of heart.
There is a new tower that was put up about 10 years ago that flashes a light in the night as the need is still there for the safety of the boats that travel these waters. But it is a mere skeleton (literally) of the original.
A beacon of hope and safety
A lighthouse can be seen for miles around through the dark nights. It provides a beacon of hope for sailors navigating the waters. There is safety in the warning of the flashing beam from the shore.
I was told by one Cruzan sailor that Hams Bluff Lighthouse saved his life. This from a man who was born here and has sailed around the island his entire life. I’m sure that there are thousands of stories about how a lighthouse saved sailors from crashing on the rocks and shores that would have broken their boats and caused great harm.
In so many ways, the Church is much like the lighthouses built on bluffs around the world. We are to provide a beacon of hope in the dark, dangerous world. We are to shine the light of Jesus Christ, guiding the people of the world to a safe harbor.
A changed focus
As navigation tools have changed and become more modern, lighthouses are becoming viewed as less important. With GPS, sailors can navigate the dark waters with a sense of safety and no longer look for the flashing lights.
Similarly, the world is no longer looking to the Church to help them navigate life. Society used to be centered around the local church. Today, a relative few look to the church for hope and safety. The buildings still stand, many of them a mere shell of what they used to be because the light is no longer shining from within.
The Church has largely given its responsibilities of feeding the poor, caring for the widows and orphans, and caring for the community around it to the government. We have become a gathering place for the few. A sense of importance, but lacking the substance that the world needs.
Unfortunately, we have too often chosen to live as the world instead of calling the world to a better life. Ephesians 5:7-14 tells us that we need to be walking as “children of light” and expose that which hides in the darkness.
We need to be shining lights
People all around us need the Light of the World (Jesus Christ) more than ever today. The only way they will ever see it is if the Church shines bright in the darkness.
The Church should be a body of believers working together in Christlikeness, reaching out to the world, providing hope and safety. The Church is not a building, nor just the elders and leaders in the church. All of the followers of Christ make up the Church, which includes you and me. Reaching the world starts with each one of us personally determining to live as imitators of Christ. With sacrificial love, Christ gave His life so we can live. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal desires, opinions, and comfort so that the world can have eternal life?
Instead of debating which songs we should be singing or what program meets my preferences, we should start caring for the widows and orphans. We need to be lifting up the poor and providing a way out of poverty. The Church has been instructed to make disciples of Christ. Too often, we are found coddling each other like entitled members in a country club.
We don’t need the best light show, we need to be the light shining outside of the church. If a lighthouse shines its light only inside itself, there would be no reason for its existence. The church must be shining in the darkness of the world around it.
It starts with me and you. Are we shining bright in the darkness?
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
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