Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Parable of the Boathouse

This can be Googled as "the Parable of the Lighthouse" or the "Parable of the Lifesaving Station". Some attribute it to Theodore Wedel dating back to 1953, others attribute it to "author unknown" but adapted by Steve Rudd. And it also is a sample sermon in several guides and even published by Youth Specialties periodical Ideas. I heard this in a sermon years ago and have adapted it as I recall it being told- hence the change from Life-Saving Station to Boathouse. Either way, it is just as relevant today as it was when I heard it and as it was whenever it was written.


There was once a bay that was very popular amongst sailors. But it had dangerous, rocky shores. Yet because of its captivating beauty, many would sail in, only to meet their fate at the jagged rocks.

The most experienced sailors were saddened by this regular occurrence, but then boasted how they were able to navigate the treacherous waters. But then a young sailor came to the bay and asked to be taught how to sail through the dangerous bay. Teaching someone else their secrets never occurred to the old sailors, but one wise old sailor invested his time and his knowledge into this young seafarer.

As the young sailor learned, the wise old sailor also learned that he liked to teach. So he invited others to come learn the secrets of the rocky bay. Now this wasn't popular with the other old sailors who wanted to protect the knowledge they learned the hard way, but it was very popular with younger sailors who had always wanted to visit this bay but were afraid to.

What once was measured by numerous tragedies was now measured by the number of lives saved. As the number of students grew, more and more people started to sail in and out of this bay. So the wise old sailor decided to build a boathouse, from which he could teach other sailors how to navigate these waters and also teach them how to save the lives of other sailors who were less fortunate. The boathouse became a popular gathering place for the sailors. And as its popularity grew, amenities were added. Big-screen TVs. Pool tables. A fully stocked bar. And it became such a popular place that many came to the boathouse not to sail or to save lives at all, but simply to hang out.

Eventually, the wise old sailor passed away and left the boathouse to the first, now not so young, sailor he taught. But the young sailor didn't sail anymore. He was busy managing the boathouse making sure all his clientele were happy and well-fed and the boathouse continued to make money. Yet even though most who came to the boathouse didn't sail, the bay was still a popular attraction, as was the boathouse, so many still attempted to sail in.

When once the number of casualties from the rocky shore was almost zero, the sailors in the boathouse stopped noticing that number creep back up to where it used to be. More, in fact, because now people were sailing in just to visit the boathouse.

But as more and more sailors died in the treacherous bay, fewer and fewer people frequented the boathouse because some of these casualties were from their own number. As the casualties increased even further, people soon began to avoid the boathouse altogether because they were sad over so many lost friends. It wasn't long before no one came to the boathouse any more.

Today, people still sail in to the bay. Not for the boathouse, but for its natural beauty. Sadly, many of these sailors die in their attempt. More sad is the fact that there is no one left to teach them the secrets of the bay; the old sailors have all passed away and the young sailor had forgotten how to sail.

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