The Parable of a Lighthouse

In 2004 as a meditation at a ministerial meeting, our local Catholic priest read us this powerful story. I often think of it and it challenges me and should challenge us all.

(Many unattributed versions of this story exist online; it was written in 1953 by Rev. Dr. Theodore O. Wedel, a canon of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.) – Fred Stewart

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. It was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea; with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

So many lives were saved by this little station that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and others, wanted to be associated with the station and give of their time and money to support its work.

New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little station grew.

Some of the new members were unhappy with the crude building. They felt the rescued needed a more comfortable place as their first refuge.

The building was enlarged, with nicer furniture. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place, and was re-decorated beautifully and furnished as a sort of club.

Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet and half-drowned people.

They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club.

But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did. And the same thing happened to them.

If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown.

Published in The Presbyterian Record on June 1, 2016.