Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Jan. 24, 2021
The year is 519 BC. The Israelites have spent 70 years in exile in Babylon and now they’ve returned to rebuild their homeland and especially their holy Temple. A guy named Zerubbabel was in charge of the project.
The way to remember that is – The temple was all in rubble until Zerubbabel. (And you thought I didn’t pay attention in seminary!)
As folks were rebuilding the temple, they couldn’t help recall the glory of the first Temple, Solomon’s Temple. Few, if any of them, would have ever seen the first Temple, but they’d heard the grand descriptions, and in comparison their work on this second Temple seemed meager and pitiful to them. Zechariah the Prophet gets a series of visions from God to encourage the people in their work.
Let’s take a look: Zechariah 4:8-10
Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.
The phrase, “The Day of Small Things” stands out to me.
For Zechariah it meant, “Don’t be discouraged if our work doesn’t seem to be adding up to much. Jerusalem wasn’t built in a day. These are the days of small things, but they will add up to something beautiful.” Brick by brick, row by row, we’re going to make this temple grow!
It seems to me that we, too, are living in the Days of Small Things.
In fact, most of things we’re missing and longing for are small things.
- Holding a grandchild.
- Singing together as a congregation.
- Chatting during coffee hour.
- Going out to lunch with some friends.
- Going to the movies as a family.
- A simple hug
Small Things are more important than we realized.
It also strikes me that the way through this pandemic is the way of small things – hand-sanitizer, our beloved masks, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. These little things are not so little after all.
And one of the ways we’ve coped during this pandemic is by appreciating the small things that we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy.
- Zooming with our families is kind of fun!
- Visits with family & friends on our front lawns & drive-ways – did you ever think that would be special?
- I was pleasantly surprised by how folks enjoyed Drive-In Church. I was afraid that singing in our cars would make us miss the sanctuary even more, and we’d feel even more apart. But instead, those services gave us a real sense of connection. – the days of small things.
- And Praying together on Zoom has been surprisingly powerful as it connects us with God and with each other – even though we’re just seeing a 2” x 3” picture on our computer screens. “Good to see you all again.” “You, too”
The days of small things.
Of course, Small things are how most progress is made.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
In Richard Power’s novel The Overstory there’s this line: “Trees fall with spectacular crashes. But planting is silent and growth is invisible.”
“Spectacular crashes” happen all the time – trees, economies, business, individuals – and they understandably get a lot of attention. But recoveries from these events usually happen slowly and creep along silently.
Ex. You have a spectacular crash and break your leg. It requires and gets a lot of attention at first – at the ER, get an X-ray, and then a cast. All that happens quickly. But the recovery takes much, much longer. It happens slowly – step by step, PT appointment by PT appointment. The break was quick. The recovery is slow but steady.
John Wellman gave one of our “Sunday Night in the Park” talks last summer. It was on the book, Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Rosling was a renowned doctor, world health expert, and a statistician. He’s advised the UN, the World Health Organization and many countries. Rosling’s amazing book was written before Covid.
Rosling makes the point that if you watch the evening news every night you’ll come to the conclusion that the world is falling apart. Almost every story is negative – violence, poverty, earthquakes, political upheaval, terrorists – on and on it goes.
Rosling says however, that by almost every measure, the world is getting better, not worse.
- In the last 20 years the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has been cut in half.
- Life expectancy worldwide is 70 yrs. In 1970 it was 59.
- 88% of the world’s children have received a vaccination.
- 80% of the world has access to electricity.
- 86% of the world can read & write. In 1800 is was 10%.
- The world’s population is growing, not because births are way up but because people are living longer, all across the globe. Healthcare is better, water is cleaner.
- Worldwide, 90% of school-age girls are in school. For boys it’s a little bit higher.
Now here’s the point – I have never heard any of these statistics on the evening news. Have you? It’s because real progress happens slowly, not dramatically. And so it rarely makes the front page of the newspaper, or the evening news.
Progress is made . . .
- when a new well is dug in an African village.
- when a new road is built in Indonesia, opening up greater access to healthcare and healthier food.
- when internet access comes to a remote part of India.
- When a new medical clinic is opened in Honduras.
- When a newly graduated nurse and doctor visit that clinic every week.
- When children in an underserved part of the Dominican Republic receive vaccinations.
- When mosquito nets are given out in Zambia & leads to fewer cases of malaria & overall improvements in health.
You get the point – real progress is being made, but it largely goes unnoticed. Real progress happens slowly and quietly, especially in the Days of Small Things.
This gives me hope!
- Our small acts of kindness add to the amount of kindness in the world.
- Martin Luther King once said, “The problem with returning evil for evil is it adds to the amount of evil in the world.”
- Returning hatred with more hatred doubles the amount of hatred you’re dealing with.
- We want to add more kindness to the world, more hope to the world, more positivity in the world.
- And if it’s true that small things add up, then what we do truly makes a difference!
I remember a discussion I had a few years ago with a youth group about having a personal mission statement. And this one kid, Julian, said that his personal mission in life was to spread joy. That’s pretty great, isn’t it? – to add the amount of joy in the world.
Have you ever noticed that a little bit of joy can go a long, long way?
– a little bit of kindness can turn your whole day around.
– a little bit of loving care can change your whole attitude.
– a note, a call, a text, an email expressing concern, care and love – in the Days of Small Things – these things mean a lot.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said this:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Commission & Benediction
An amazing thing happened at the Dairy Queen in Brainerd, Minnesota. Many called it a Pay It Forward Day. It actually spilled over into several days. And during those days 900 people paid for the food for the car behind them. And they had a blast doing it. They were spreading joy, kindness and love!
But I’d like to know who the last guy was! – he took the free meal paid for by the car ahead of him and then drove off! “Don’t you want to pay for the car behind you?” “No, I’m good. Thanks.”
This week, our assignment is very simple: Don’t be That Guy!
Be a Giver, not a Taker.
Be a Joy-Spreader.
Be a Kindness Cultivator.
Be a Purveyor of Positivity!
In a world filled with hate, Be a Light!
And as you do . . . the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Creator, and the joy of Holy Spirit, will be with you all. Amen.