Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Turn on the Lights

The Andrea Doria steamed determinedly toward the United States with her 2,234 passengers and crew of 575. A veteran of 50 voyages to New York City, the luxury liner cruised at 22 knots. Captain Franco Calamai, 58, felt fully confident of his radar system, despite dense fog.

Surging through the same fog, another liner, the Stockholm, forged ahead in the same fog, outbound from a stateside port. The Stockholm sliced the hull of the Andrea Doria, shearing her bow like a butter knife. Disengaging, she continued her journey as she disappeared in the fog.

On board the Andrea Doria, passengers quickly sensed something wrong, but only slowly comprehended what had just happened. Someone thought a ship’s boiler exploded. The Captain resisted sounding an alarm for fear of spreading panic. He dispatched an immediate SOS, thinking to save his ship.

Three small ships responded--not enough to hold his passengers. At the last possible moment, another Europe-bound ship responded to Captain Calamai’s SOS. By now several hundred passengers were beginning to feel their lostness.

As their ship listed over more perilously, hundreds of distressed passengers suddenly began to cheer, while some wept. Peering into the darkness, they read the lettering of a French liner--the Ile de France. Aboard that French liner, Captain de Baudean ordered every light set ablaze.

“Turn on the lights, all the lights, let them know we’re here,” he commanded.
De Beaudean’s crew rescued all but 52 people before the Andrea Doria sank to a depth of 225 feet at 10:09 on July 26, 1956.

Nice story, you say, but I remember it because it was the rescue of the Rev. & Mrs. Ernest LaFont. I never met Ernest but I knew Frank and wife Margaret. They were all fellow alumni from Warner Pacific College, and Ernest and his wife were returning stateside from missionary service in Egypt on that trip.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus told his Sermon on the Mount congregation (Mt 5:14) Hiding a city located on a hill makes for a difficult and deliberate task. You just can’t hide light! Today, the Church of God is on a mission, called by Our Lord to serve and minister-to broken humanity. Economic insecurity is everywhere today for all but the wealthy. Times are difficult and the church feels the crunch as well. Distrust, disbelief, and fear of too-much Church of God Ministries dominates the thinking of many.

Need we be reminded that we have no hierarchy, no headquarters, no Pope to make up our minds? Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church--we are His family! Because most of us believe we can do some things better together than by ourselves, we elect from our peers, and charge them with administering our cooperative ministries like global missions, educational ministries, publications, pastoral care, etc.

Currently, there is chatter about the video from Dr. Duncan and the projected shortfall. Well, I know more than I want to know about shortfall, even agency failure and distrust. I also know my small pension means survival and I’ve known a lot of agency through the years that I would trust my life with.

Online, I’m reading words like headquarters, accountability, congregationalism, even distrust, to mention a few. Everyone has a reason, for feeling hurt, distrust, and a lot of other non-essential stuff. Some of have issues to talk about that we feel are essential. I have all of the above!

But, it all boils down to this: In the Church of God we are all fellows (and girls) in the same ship. Those several ministries that we do better together than solo need us to act like the “Body” we claim to be. And, we all know how the body functions!

Ron Duncan is simply trying to rally us around our common cause. Headquarters, Chog Ministries is not. The Bishop, Dr. Duncan is not, but he is the leader we elected after we dispensed with Bob Pearson the visionary.

If you want to know the faults of our Movement, ask my Pastor (no names). Soooooo, I was just a little surprised Sunday when a guest preacher showed up and presented the congregation a certificate crediting them with giving over half a million dollars--upper 4-5% of givers (I forget).
That is better than anything I ever achieved as a pastor and I thought it was pretty neat.

More than that, my friend Kirk Bookout (Chog Ministries) reminded me of something I’ve always believed: we do some things better together than by ourselves. Designated giving is fine for churches that have funds for special projects, but the churches I served never had enough to cover those things we considered essential; thus we always gave “undesignated” - to the budget - even when I was among those most hurt.

Recalling the rescue of the LaFonts, half a century ago, I have no problem seeing that French Captain ordering lights everywhere on his ship And in all the din--the cacophony of today’s strange sounds, I hear Our Captain loudly crying to the church - “Turn on the lights! Let everyone know we’re here. Let no one be without a light by which to see.”

I saw it that way when I accepted my first mission charge in AR in 1951; I saw it that way through years of small churches (we didn’t call them missions then). although I retired in 1996, if I could do it all over again, I’d jump at the chance because I believe in it!

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