High above the familiar skyline of Alexandria stood Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse was designed as a safety mechanism for sea-going traffic. At the same time, it had become an incomparable landmark for the city. In the ancient world, only Egypt would multi-task on such a grand scale.
Located on prime beachfront property on Alexandria’s harbor, the 45-story, multi-shaped lighthouse was an engineering marvel. Its silhouette was the dominant feature on the local cosmopolitan skyline. The observation deck, complete with a chic café, was a must-see tourist attraction.
Because it was the world’s tallest building, the lighthouse served as the crown jewel for the city’s marketing plan. In fact, its famous likeness was engraved on coins in faraway Rome. The Pharos Lighthouse was the world’s crème de la crème of lighthouses.
However, the lighthouse was more than just show. It was also practical. It housed a large curved mirror in its beacon chamber and could project a 100-mile beam of light into the dark Mediterranean night to aid distressed, searching sailors. The famed lighthouse was built two centuries before Christ and lasted for more than a thousand years beyond His lifetime on earth.
Yet, with all its notoriety, the lighthouse’s builder might have been forever forgotten had it not been for some quick-thinking and gutsy maneuvering.
Sostrates was the tower’s architect and chief builder. He gave 20 years of his life to complete the project. As is true with most builders, Sostrates wished to leave his mark on his life’s work. He petitioned Ptolemy II King of Egypt for the right to inscribe his name in the marble base of the lighthouse.
Ptolemy was no dummy and would have nothing to do with Sostrates’ request. In fact, Ptolemy wanted the lighthouse to bear his own name so history might remember him, instead of the builder. Ptolemy demanded that Sostrates chisel the inscription to honor Egypt’s king and no one else. The order was final. The words were scripted and approved. Ptolemy was to be remembered forever on the walls of Pharos Lighthouse, while Sostrates was relegated to be the inscriber of Ptolemy’s self-proclaimed tribute.
Sostrates was ticked. He had done all the work, yet the king wanted all the credit.
He returned to the jobsite and devised a plan. Hanging a large curtain to hide his work, he chiseled into the marble these words: BUILT BY SOSTRATES SON OF DEXIPHANES OF KNIDOS ON BEHALF OF ALL MARINERS AND TO THEIR SAVIOR GODS.
Then Sostrates covered the inscription with a thin layer of cheap plaster. In the plaster he wrote the entire text of Ptolemy’s self-serving announcement.
As years passed, wind, rain and pounding surf chipped away the cheap plaster, revealing the name of its true builder.
In a wonderful way, Sostrates’ lighthouse is a parable of the church, which belongs to Christ and always will. It has His name written all over it. After all, He built it, He bought it, He is the head of it, and He serves as its chief cornerstone. In fact, He has constructed His church to be so efficient and strong that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
Today, in the 21st century, we are the lighthouse keepers of His beloved church. We are commissioned to keep the warning light lit and to build upon His foundation faithfully.
How are we to do that? What are the duties of lighthouse keepers? What activities has He required for His church?
Actually, there are only three:
• Be committed to God through worship—exist “for the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12).
• Be committed to fellow believers through nurturing—aid “the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
• Be committed to the world through evangelizing and caring—strive “to make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
Take ownership of your church, your local lighthouse. Claim it as your own. Carve your name just below His name. Leave your indelible mark for future generations to see. Let it be known that you were there. Be a steward who is worthy of being remembered.