Remnants of an old hymn I learned in Sunday School came back to me as I listened to a tour guide talk about lighthouse duty being a twenty-four seven job. Lard stored in the basement needed to be melted every hour and a half to provide oil for the light which would warn of perilous coasts. Light which would guide a ship to port. Philip P. Bliss ‘s hymn “Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy” talks about the importance of letting our lights’ shine in a world given over to paths that take us to dangerous shoals. It reminds us that God gives the keeping of the “lights along the shore” to us. He writes
“Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.”
I remember that hymn was one of my childhood favorites. There was something about the call to be there for those lost on the waters. Maybe, it was the many times we waited up for the last boat to come in at our family resort, which made this song a bit dearer to the heart. I knew something about being out on the water at night and how much seeing familiar lights on shore meant when we came around a bend. We knew that we were almost home. A light would safely guide us to the shore.
In Bliss’s hymn the lower lights refer, not to the lighthouse, but the lights from individual homes which reflected out upon the waters guiding a ship into port. The same lamp being used to bring light into one’s home, in reflecting on the water, guided the sailors to safety. So he encouraged us to:
“Trim your feeble lamp, my brother (sister);
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.”
The reality of our lives is that we meet people day by day who are struggling with one issue or another. We may never know the good that comes from the smile, phone call, note of concern, listening ear or simple help we offered. What we do know is the ways that we have been blessed when a person has befriended us. We know how it touched something deep inside of us which restored our hope, healed our spirit and gave encouragement in a difficult time.
Jesus put it this way, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-17
May your lower lights keep shining with the joy of Christ’s love and mercy.