One of the first sermon illustrations I used at Concord was the “Parable of the Lifesaving Station.” I’m not sure who first authored it, as I’ve heard the story used many different times by a handful of people. This definitely applies to our sermon from yesterday about the Acts 2 church, so I figured I would share it once more!
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for those who were lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time, money, and eﬀort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the ﬁrst refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.
Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. They hung up memorabilia and pictures of great lifesaving expeditions of old and sung songs about lifesaving. They would even have lifesaving potlucks.
Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked oﬀ the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up first before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities altogether as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving 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 lifesaving station. So they hiked up the shore a half mile and did just that.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, there was a split, and yet another lifesaving station was founded up the coast. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people tragically drown.
When we meet together as the church, are we fully living out our mission? Do we realize God calls us to help rescue other people? Or do we sometimes struggle with being inwardly focused?
Never forget that we as Christians are in the lifesaving business!