The late Peter Marshall was an eloquent speaker, and for several years he was the Chaplain of the United States Senate. He used this story in one of his sermons: (1)
(Paraphrased by Dr. Charles Swindoll)
“A quiet forest dweller lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps. This old and gentle man had been hired many years earlier by the Town Council to clear away the debris from the pools of water that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town.
With faithful, silent regularity he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt from the fresh flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from the restaurants was picturesque.
Years passed. One evening the Town Council met for its semi-annual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? For all we know he is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!” By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.
For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of water. One afternoon someone noticed a light yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple of days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was detected. The mill wheels moved slower, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.
Embarrassed, the Town Council called a special meeting. They realized their gross error in judgment and hired back the old keeper of the spring. Within a few weeks, the river began to clear up.
Fanciful though it may be, the story carries with it a vivid, relevant analogy directly related to the times in which we live. What the keeper of the Spring meant to the village, Christian servants mean in our world. The preserving, taste-giving bit of “salt” mixed with the illuminating, hope-giving ray of “light”may seem feeble and needless…but God help any society that attempts to exist without them! You see, the village without the keeper of the spring is a perfect representation of the world system with the salt and light of God’s servants.”
Peter Marshall’s sermon was based on Matthew 5:13-14
You are the salt of the earth. But, what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. NLT
and ends with this question:
IN WHAT WAYS CAN WE GROW IN CARING FOR THE SPRINGS OF LIFE ENTRUSTED TO OUR CARE?
In one of God’s Other Ways© the Lord blesses each of us for the LITTLE things we do.
1 Catherine Marshall, Mr. Jones, Meet the Master (New York :Fleming H. Revell, 1951), 147, 148