We have been working our way through the gospel of Luke. A few weeks ago we read the gospel story about the Mustard Seed - if only our faith was as small as the mustard seed. The story's text invites us to ponder on the inherent potential of our faith, the amazingly far-reaching capability of faith. The point is, you and I can do extraordinary things not because we have a mountain of faith but simply because we have any at all. And that is actually what makes all the difference in our lives.
Think about the gospel story of that little boy with five loaves and two fish. There was no way this little boy ever thought that his meager supply was going to be the basis upon which a miracle would be wrought, and no way did he ever thought that his paltry rations could hold such potential. The gift in this little boy’s gift was his desire to offer up the small supplies he had. Small an action, we may say, but a huge difference, we would admit. The other gift I find in the story is that a growth mindset can imagine possibilities and instill belief that you, I, Christ Church, and everything round about us are capable of growth and change. We only need to take that small action.
I'm sure that you have also had the benefit of a small action making a big difference in your life. Last Sunday, I listened to Linda Burton, our preacher and Adult Forum presenter (If you missed her presentation last week, please join us on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in Old Brick for the second session). I asked myself, "What small action has made a big difference in my life? What small action has made a big difference in your life?" Mine were too many to number, but I realized that at each step of my young life there were many people who were more than willing to take the small steps… not necessarily steps of providing material needs, but rather in believing in me - if I should take the boy’s five loaves and two fish, something good might come out of it.
I often tell a story about walking into All Saints Episcopal Church, in Atlanta, Georgia on a cold Sunday morning, and introducing myself to The Reverend Geoffrey Hoare after that day's worship. I still remember sitting in his office and jumping at the opportunity of joining his staff for a $500.00 monthly stipend. At that time, I had never been paid that much money in my entire life. My stipend was more than enough for me to even send some to my mother back in Ghana. I have no idea what led me to that church, but I bear testimony to the fact that Providence doesn’t disappoint. Providence leads us, even when paths may appear unclear to us. Providence ultimately leads us to paths of living water... paths where we can find life.
Like you, I am a beneficiary of God’s unbridled compassion. And I ask myself, "What if Reverend Hoare had not welcomed me? What if he had not lived the gospel of embracing the stranger? What if he had rejected my five loaves and two fish as being insignificant? More to the point, what if he had failed to see the Mustard Seed that sat in me and which I represented?" The gift in his gift to me is the joy of serving here, today, at Christ Church. Small action, big difference.
Brother Lawrence, a Seventeenth Century French monk, wrote these wise words in his book The Practice of the Presence of God... “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed." That love is always present in the little things we do. I’d like to reiterate the point in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, where a small action – the sowing of a small seed – led to the growth of a large plant. And more than that, this plant becomes life-giving for other creatures of God. I hope you believe like I do, that your gift is always life-giving for all of God’s creation.
In 1926, Dr. James Allan Francis preached a sermon called One Solitary Life, in which he used the incarnation of Jesus to illustrate how one solitary life had a massive impact: ‘Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. Long centuries have come and gone but all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humans upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.’
Small things, big difference.
We are presently in the middle of our Stewardship Campaign for 2020. And as many of you know, Christ Church doesn’t have the benefit of other Episcopal churches which rely on endowments to fund their Ministry responsibilities. We entirely rely on YOU, our faithful parishioners, to support our ministries during any given season. Two of the important tasks that we want to accomplish next year are to hire a Youth Minister to lead the formation of our deserving youth, and a Parish Ministries Coordinator to lead us in planning and organizing our common life. These things, too, can happen if small acts come together with the hope of making a big difference.
Christ Church's In-Gathering Sunday is next week on November 10th. That Sunday is also our Annual Meeting. It is my strong belief that gathering together in front of our altar with our mutual gifts will be the ultimate expression of a small action with the potential for a big impact, and a big difference.
Like Brother Lawrence, it is also my prayer that you will learn to value small actions and pursue them with love, recognizing that by doing so you are following in the footsteps and teachings of the Christ who first gave himself to us as a small child, and who makes all the big difference in our lives.