A lighthouse along a bleak coast was tended by a keeper who was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Still another needed some for an engine. The keeper saw each as a worthy request and measured out just enough oil to satisfy all. Near the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse ran dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than 100 lives were lost.
When a government official investigated, the man explained what he had done and why. “You were given one task alone,” insisted the official. “It was to keep the light burning. Everything else was secondary. There is no defense.”
The story of the lighthouse today hopefully will act as a parable for the church, that as our time together runs short, we have to go back to our singular purpose, focus, and direction—keeping the light burning. Not in a literal sense, that would make you energy hogs, but in a practical and enduring representative of Jesus Christ. The church must be about helping people avoid the rocks of life by helping them build on the Rock of Life, and to rescue those who have been crashed against the jagged and rough terrain. Today, I want to turn to Philippians 1:1-10. The Apostle Paul writes while in Rome, he isn’t on a scenic tour, but locked away for his faith. He is writing to Christians in Greece helping highlight for us the role we play in keeping the light of Christ burning bright. ֔After Paul’s general introduction he begins giving thanks for the people of Philippi: (Philippians 1:3-5) 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. From the beginning he makes it clear that we are Move #1: All partners in the Gospel
Paul was under house arrest, and while many had abandoned Paul after his struggles, the people of Philippi continued to send money defraying the cost of his living expenses, allowing him to continue sharing the Gospel with whoever he interacted with or whoever visited him. Even though they were separated by geography and culture, Paul recognized that they were absolutely partners, unified in a bigger struggle than their personal circumstances. Partnership in the Greek is actually the word: koinonia—which is where we get community—relationship with purpose.
There is an interesting verse in Proverbs (18:1), Eugene Peterson translates this verse, “Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good.” Yet, through Christ we have been bound together by a partnership which goes beyond our present condition. In fact, as Paul uses koininia, implied within it are the ABC’s of partnership. True partnership and community starts with A-Activity- hearing a sermon is passive most of the time, but partnership requires taking on a role. B- Buy-In—the people of Philippi weren’t just going along, they were bought into the mission of Christ so much that they were willing to do whatever it required, even when they were hurting themselves, and C-Common Good—whereas the world of individuals works for their own well-being or comfort, community puts the need of others first and foremost, if one is hurting, they all are hurting, if one is lost, they are all lost.
Recently, my mother and brother were in town. We took a tour of President Lincoln’s home in Springfield, just a few blocks from the capital. You can see where he got news about receiving the Republican Nomination for President and where he played with his kids. We also went and looked around the Visitor’s Museum and inside they have a nice theater where they have video reenactments of his time in Springfield. One that was particularly interesting was his Farewell Address to the city that had become his home. In his words he articulated an appreciation and partnership which seems fitting: (I got teased about looking like Lincoln enough when I had a beard) My friends — No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing… Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed… Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. We were never meant to work alone–Jesus had the disciples, Lone Ranger had Tonto, what more evidence do you need?