by Lee Hull Moses
Several years ago, on a trip with my family to northern Minnesota, we stopped to visit a lighthouse perched high on a cliff along Lake Superior. The Split Rock lighthouse has stood for over a century, warning ships traveling through dark and icy waters of the treacherous rocks along the shore.
The lighthouse itself was impressive, but I was intrigued by the small house just next door, where the lighthouse keepers lived. In the days of oil lamps, these men and women and their families took on as the task of keeping the light shining, trimming the wick, refilling the oil, cleaning the lens. Given the lighthouse’s remote setting far from the nearest town, this was far more than a job; it was a way of life.
I keep coming back to this image of a lighthouse, and the keepers who tend and care for it, as I think about our calling as a church community. We are keepers, of a sort — not of oil lamps and lenses, but of stories. For centuries now, the church has been keepers of the stories that tell of God’s love for the world. This is one of the most significant tasks of the church: to be storykeepers. Other groups do good community service. Other groups have potluck dinners. Other groups care for each other well. But the church does all these things because we are keepers of the stories that remind us of the way of life God calls us to. In a world intent on war, we keep stories of peace. In the midst of debates about who belongs and who doesn’t, we keep stories of welcome. In moments when storms rage and all seems despairing, we keep stories of hope.
And to be clear: we do not keep these stories for ourselves. We tend to them, holding them carefully, retelling them — trimming the wick, refilling the oil, cleaning the lens – so that they will shine like a beacon of light across dark and stormy waters. We keep them so that they can be shared: they show us how to live, and what God dreams for us. They help us navigate among the rocks.
This fall, we’ll take a look at some of the stories the church keeps, and talk about why. Most will be familiar stories; maybe we’ll hear them in a new way. Some will be less familiar, and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite. Also in worship each week, storytellers from the congregation will share a story from their own life, about how God is at work, even here and now. (Got a story you’d like to tell? Let me know.) We are keepers of each other’s stories as well.
Author Rob Bell, in the book we’re talking about at Tuesday night’s Table Topics, describes the Bible as a “ruthlessly hopeful” book. I believe that. And I believe that what the world needs is a ruthlessly hopeful group of storykeepers who will shine a little light on the way ahead.
Join us, won’t you?