Anglican Church of Canada
Sunday after Pentecost
One of my favorite prayers is by a poet, Christina Rosetti, and here's part of it: Give us grace, O Lord, to work while it is day, fulfilling diligently and patiently whatever duty thou appointest us, doing small things in the day of small things and great labors if thou summon us to any. Amen.
It seems to me that days of small things are most of the days of our lives, and really days of small things are most of the days of the universe. You know, the scientists say that the universe started as a very small thing, and that the very small thing was there-people of faith believe created by God-between oh, thirteen and fourteen billion years ago as we think of time now. But this small thing was there before there really was even time. And so even before there was time or space, there was just this very small thing about the size of a marble; and in less than a trillion trillionth of a second, God must have said, "Let there be," and the very small seed grew to a volume larger than all of the observable space in the universe. That's what the scientists are saying, and I believe them. So God did a very small thing with grace and power and great labour; and in the twinkling of God's eye, a universe was born.
I began thinking about this power of small things this spring, oddly enough while I was thinking about The Ten Commandments. During the weeks before Good Friday and Easter in the season of Lent, I like to study and ponder the Ten Commandments. I thought that maybe if you say them loud enough and often enough, they will sink in. Really, if I thought that blaring them on a loudspeaker forty times a day or pasting them in huge letters on every possible surface would help this old broken sin-sick world clean up its act, then I would get out my megaphone and my glue gun. But it seemed to me - and I believe I had the mind of Christ on this - that God just doesn't work that way, for in Christ we don't have a God that wrote a huge poster of rules or yelled out the rules so loudly that every person on earth had to hear them. Instead, in Christ we have the God who showed us a small thing, a small mustard-seed life and death and new life of a small, single human being. And from that very small thing came a whole universe of meaning and life and love.
This is an imperfect example of small seeds growing huge new life, but I offer it: We recently saw the hit musical Come From Away in Toronto. In a series of vignettes, the musical tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland were faced with the arrival of over seven thousand people as planes were grounded as the result of the 9/11 attacks. Normally a backwater not far from the cold North Atlantic Ocean, the everyday people of Gander mobilized thousands in their town and the surrounding communities to offer the many forms of hospitality that that moment called for: people opened their homes and their kitchens to provide food and shelter for their many unexpected guests. That’s what starting from something small that becomes something greater than the sum of its parts is all about.
Professor Stephen Hawking’s ashes were interred between those of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin in Westminster Abbey this past Friday. The Abbey’s Dean, Dr. John Hall stated that Dr. Hawking qualifies not just because of his contributions to science but also by virtue of the inspirational life he lived in the face of huge obstacles. The religious views of a man sometimes described as the world’s most famous atheist were not disqualifying, Dr. Hall said.
“Whether he was actually an atheist, whether he was actually an agnostic, what his position was, is not, to my mind, entirely clear,” said Dr. Hall. “My position is quite simply this: Whether a person believes in God or not, if someone is achieving extraordinary things then I believe God is in that process.”
Small things, tiny seeds, are the work of Christ. He did not live or heal or teach on some grand scale. He was a small man in a small country with a small reach, but because he did every small thing with grace and power, then the great labour - Christ in him crucified/birthed a new, not just understanding of God, but life in God.
Not to bring up The Ten Commandments again, but…remember that they are very rarely Cecil B. deMille, big-screen, neon-sign events. They really aren't. They are small choices we make on small days, over and over and over again: such as choosing to remember that God made us for freedom and gave us as a gift, not a punishment, rules to live by. Small things such as remembering God made us, so we don't make God. Such as remembering that we had better not put God's name on anything in a vain show of power. Such as remembering that if God made the universe from a little marble and rested, then we are just created and hard wired to let go of our tiny universes and rest too. Little things, like remembering not just to honour your parents when they are old and gray, but also to train your own children to honour you. And don't let them get away with small, crummy, petty things. And don't lie in small things. Then the great truths within you have a shot. And don't strike up teasing, betraying relationships. Almost every adulterous relationship that people bring to pastors like me is when their miserable family is imploding. Every one of them begins with small, careless choices. And don't murder, which may mean more than we want it to mean. And don't steal. I know that means more than any of us want stealing to mean. But if we don't steal in small ways, we won't get all messed up in big ways. And then this last one, which this year I think is the biggest one. Don't covet. Don't waste your life wanting another life. An old friend calls it a case of the "I wants." Whatever "I wants" you have right now - bigger, better, more, different - find little ways of not renting that room in your head. Little ways, like I will not think about this for five minutes kinds of ways.
I follow the God who showed up two thousand years ago in small ways on days of small things. A healing touch here. A compassionate word there. Small things like not giving up on flawed friends. Like praying every day, not just on Sundays. Small things like enjoying life. Jesus really enjoyed life. Small things like speaking truth to power. Like giving his small, marble-sized life so that the great labour of a new universe of resurrected, reborn life could be created.
So, we must ask ourselves: what small things do we need to say and do and refrain from saying and doing?
This prayer sums it all up beautifully: Let us pray.
Grant me this day, Lord,
For too often
for this day, Lord,
Almighty God, without you we are not able to please you. Mercifully grant that your Holy spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the HOly Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen
Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favour your burnt sacrifices.
May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfil all your plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfil all your petitions.
Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.
Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!The Holy Gospel
He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.