Monday, October 14, 2013

The Little Things

There is an old saying that life is about the little things.
I have to admit that I am not always great about noticing the little things in life.
My wife will tell you this because if she comes home from getting a haircut I will hardly ever notice.
She will ask me, “do you notice something different?”
As I stand there with a befuddled look on my face.
But don’t worry; I have solved this problem, now if she asks me if I notice anything new I will always say, “Looks like you lost weight.”
But I wish I was more in tune with the little things, because it is in the little things where God is at work.
It is in the little moments that we might not notice where God is doing great and mighty things.
Today’s stewardship theme is; called to be faithful with little.
But like last week rather than focus on what we do with the little we have.
I want us to focus on what God does in our lives through the little things.

Today’s Gospel story is about a little thing.
It is about one person who comes back to Jesus to say, “Thank you.”
Even more than this it is about one person who knows where to channel his praise.
One of the people who was healed came back to acknowledge that Jesus was his savior.
Not just in terms of his physical healing, but also because now he could live a full life within the community.
For Jesus salvation comes from being made into a whole person.

This is what Jesus does for us he makes us whole.
In that wholeness we are more aware of things around us.
We come to have a greater appreciation for all of life.
What used to seem small, insignificant in the hands of God becomes something greater.
A thank you seems like a small thing.
But we know that it is not, saying “thank you” matters.
It can change someone in profound ways.
For me, a thank you note from someone who’s loved one I just buried, or a new couple who I just presided at their wedding, or a parishioner who I helped always makes my day and cheers me up.
A thank you goes a long way.
And you know what it doesn’t really cost us anything, maybe a few minutes of time.
God takes the little thing and makes it a big deal.

The question I want us all to think about this morning is how has God taken something little that you offered and used it to be more than you could have thought?
How has God used you to do something for someone that turned into a bigger deal than you would have thought?

I think a couple of cautions are needed here.
The first thing is that this is not about us being good people and doing something good.
This is about God’s turning something insignificant into something significant.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I have done something and thought to myself, “Wasn’t that nice of me.”
“I am a great Christian for doing that thing.”
I am not talking about those moments.
I am talking about the ones that we don’t expect.
The moments when we didn’t mean to do well, but God used those moments anyway.
Or even the moments when we meant one thing to happen and something else happened instead.

This morning’s Gospel is about something unexpected happening out of what Jesus did.
He healed ten people.
I don’t think that Jesus expect or necessarily needed any of them to come back and thank him.
After all he sent them all away to go get checked out by the priest.
Instead what happened is unexpected one of them comes back to give thanks and praise to Jesus.
And it is not at all the person one would expect.
Certainly Jesus was surprised by it.
“Was none of them found to return to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Jesus doesn’t know, until that point, that he cured a foreigner.
He can’t know it because he doesn’t get that close to him.
They kept their distance.
He only realizes it when he returns.
What a great surprise!
In this story God is up to much more than what we thought.
It becomes not just about healing people, or even a life lesson about giving thanks, but also about how even foreigners are included in God’s plans for salvation.
This little story has become a really big deal.

A lot of life is like this.
My son Charlie is really into Star wars these days.
And he has some action figures.
One of the problems with these figures is that they all have really small accessories.
And we seem to be losing them all the time.
Not only that, but the little accessories mean a lot to Charlie.
So if he loses a light saber you spend a great deal of time trying to find this little thing.
It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
When we were at Disney a couple of weeks ago, we were getting ready to leave for the day and Charlie had lost Anakin Skywalker’s light saber somewhere between our rental house and the rental car.
My wife and I got out of the car to look for it.
While we were searching the lawn, the landscaper waiting for us to leave so he could water the lawn came over and joined us.
He found it in a matter of seconds.
Charlie was thrilled.
We were thrilled.
A little thing found that meant a lot to a little boy.

If this story seems small that is the point.
The man was not trying to help us out.
He was trying to get us to leave so he could do his job.
But in this moment it meant more to Charlie and to us.
We of course heaped thanks upon him.

Perhaps one might think that this story of finding Charlie’s light saber is too small for God to be involved.
But this is the point.
Nothing is too little for God.
None of the things we offer are too small.
Even when we don’t know that we are giving something to someone else God is using it for good.

Last week when people wrote down the ways that God is faithful in their lives in noticed that lots of those things are small things.
Lots of people wrote about how they see God faithfulness in their families or friends, how God loves them, through faith in a better day tomorrow, how we can turn to God in prayer.
Even in the big things we see God at work through little things.
Someone wrote, “The blessing of forgiveness that has been shown.”
We are reminded of that forgiveness every week at this table in little things like a small piece of bread and a sip of wine.
But God takes those things and makes them about something much larger, about faith and forgiveness.

What also struck me about what people wrote last week how much all those little things add up.
We have so much to be thankful for, so many ways that God has made us well, like the Samaritan in our Gospel this morning.
One person was saying to me that they could have written a lot more on the cards, because they see God’s faithfulness all the time, and that for them God is in the little things.
That is exactly the point this morning.
God takes whatever God has to work with and makes something really grand out of it.

And this is important because we sometimes think that we don’t have anything to offer.
And the truth is that God uses all of us, and whatever little thing we have God uses it.

Life is about the little things.
And God is in the business of using little things to great effect.

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