Little Johnny’s preschool class went on a field trip to the fire station. The firefighter giving the presentation held up a smoke detector and asked the class, “Does anyone know what this is?” Little Johnny’s hand shot up and the firefighter called on him. Little Johnny replied: “That’s how Mommy knows supper is ready!”
Two confirmed bachelors sat talking. Their conversation drifted from politics to cooking. ‘I got a cook book once’, said the first, ‘but I could never do anything with it.’ ‘Too much fancy cooking in it, eh?’ asked the second. ‘You said it. Every one of the recipes began the same way, ‘Take a clean dish and…’
As someone who can eat a lot, I’m not a big fan of small portions at fancy restaurants. It’s not that I must go to an all you can eat buffet every time I go out for a meal, but don’t give me an appetizer and tell me it’s a meal.
Still, some things from God are small, and that’s all you get. In fact, lots of important things are small things. This is how it is.
Scripture says, “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Of course, the opposite is also true: If you can’t trust someone with the little things, they can’t be trusted the bigger.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Little things make big things happen.” World-class athletes live by that mantra every day. They know that putting the sweat in behind the scenes can lead to clutch performances in the limelight. They know you play like you practice.
Have you ever heard how the bridge over the Niagara Falls Gorge was begun? On January 30, 1848, a 15-year-old American named Homan Walsh flew a kite he named Union from one side of the gorge to the other. Someone on the opposite side caught the kite and tied a stronger string to the end of the kite string, and Holman pulled the new, thicker string back across the gorge.
The process was repeated with an even stronger string, then a cord, then a thin rope, then a thicker rope, and eventually a steel cable, which crossed the expanse and was strong enough to support workers, tools, and materials. Finally, a sturdy bridge, over which trains and trucks could easily pass, was completed. It all began with a narrow, little kite string.
Love is often described in terms of grand deeds, such as moving mountains. Love can indeed induce such deeds, but usually it is the little things that mean a lot more in love.
These little things are the many small things that we do every day, or we don’t’ do. Blowing a kiss, touching our beloved’s hair as we pass by, linking arms when crossing the street are little acts and gestures that mean the world. They make relationships flow.
One reported difficulty in long-distance relationships is that couples miss daily discussions about “trivial” matters and sharing of little things. Little things matter.
Think about the people most important to you, and what makes things go well, or go not so well. I bet small things are playing a bigger role than you may acknowledge.
If you find yourself arguing a lot and feeling distant from someone to whom you’re supposed to be close, then you might be missing out on all the little things that matter. And if you’ve ever stopped and questioned how you got into these arguments in the first place, you may want to put some of your money on the little things.
We ought to look at smaller acts of love and kindness, and make them play a much larger role in our relationships. Compliment that one in your life that perhaps you haven’t complimented so much lately. Tell him you appreciate what he does for you and your family. Tell her that you know how hard it can be to do what she does.
Little things like putting down the phone or the remote can help. When you get something for yourself, get something for another, too. Picking up a coffee? Grab him one! Making a cup of tea? Offer to make her one, too. This is how we tell someone you’re thinking of them.
Of course, this advice goes best when the person who isn’t accustomed to acting or talking this way starts to do it. If someone is doing you all these little acts of big love, don’t sit here and think this is said to reinforce their actions nearly as much as it is being directed to you to improve yours.
What’s good for you is good for the other. What you love about someone else should be something they could love about you.
When it comes to children or grandchildren, little things can be remembered forever. Go for a walk with just one child. Build your own Minecraft world alongside his. Say “yes” to something usually off-limits, like sitting on the counter. If you quarrel in front of your child, make sure that he also sees you make up. Skype or do FaceTime with Grandma every now and then. If your child has given it a good try, but he’s still miserable and anxious and really, truly wants to quit the team, give him your blessing. Go ahead: Let your 4-year-old stomp in every puddle along the way. Even without rain boots. Hold off with the barrage of how-was-your-day questions if your child comes home from school grumpy and tired. You can always get the rundown at the dinner table. Ask your kid to teach you how to do something for a change. And once you get the hang of it, be sure to tell him what a good teacher he is. Let your child wear her dress-up clothes to the supermarket. All month if she wants to. Let your child overhear you saying something wonderful about her.
Jesus teaches us the value of little things. He shows us that in his own actions. Christ invests himself primarily in 12 people. He didn’t do a worldwide search to find the best twelve. He takes them from a few small villages in Israel.
Christ was willing to stop to heal one woman, stop to heal one blind person. He taught about the incredible importance of a glass of cold water, saying that even a cup of cold water given in his name to the least of people is the same as giving it to him.
He taught in his parables. Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.” Again, he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Jesus started with a little lunch from a boy and fed multitudes. With just a jawbone, Samson slew an army. David took one stone and brought down a giant. With just a little faith, great things can be accomplished.
Big troubles begin with small actions. The Great Chicago Fire occurred in 1871. Evidently, in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, a cow twitched its leg and kicked over a lamp. That lamp broke and caught a wisp of hay on fire. Soon, the whole barn was up in flames, which then spread to and consumed the city. Hundreds of people died and millions of dollars of damage occurred, all from a twitching cow. The same is true of little words uttered from one’s tongue. In James 3:5, we learn, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” Sometimes when we utter a careless word of gossip or insult, when our tongue twitches, a person will seize upon that word and spread it like wildfire. Soon those little words can cause big heartache; in some cases, it can even start a war. It’s been said that termites destroy more property than earthquakes.
Of course, the opposite is also true. Little words of encouragement and hope can turn a life around. The phrase “You’re looking nice today” can restore self-confidence and hope instantly to someone’s spirit. Want to make someone feel better now? Say the little phrase, “You know, I really appreciate you and what you do.” Little words can make an incredible difference.
But I think the greatest example of how a little thing grew to be the most important is in our reading this morning. It’s strange that the two on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus as they walked together, and he talked about scripture. They weren’t thinking or talking about anything or anyone but Jesus, and they didn’t see it was him when he showed up. When he started to teach scripture, doing something he had done many times before, with a voice they had heard many times before, they still didn’t recognize him, Luke insists.
This changes when the stranger breaks the bread. Now, because of this, Jesus comes alive to them. He broke bread and they knew him. More articulate than the words he had spoken was his breaking bread. More vivid than his face was his breaking bread. More penetrating than the scriptures he expounded was his breaking bread.
After all, unlike the two on Emmaus, we can’t walk with or hear Christ teach. But we can all break bread. We can all find in broken bread action that speaks of the meaning and power of and need for Christ’s ministry. We don’t need to see the Lord in order to recognize Christ is to resurrected and alive. We only need to break bread, and share.
Conrad, a kindly German cobbler, lived alone. One day, according to Edwin Markham’s well-known poem, “How the Great Guest Came,” when Conrad received a revelation that Christ would be a guest in his home, his joy knew no bounds. He busied himself feverishly with preparation for the Holy Visitor. But he was not so busy that he could not help three needy strangers who came intermittently to his door throughout the day—a cold beggar, a hungry woman, and a homeless child.
The day sped on, and still the expected guest did not appear. As the day slipped away, Conrad knelt in puzzled prayer: “Lord, what has delayed you?” Out of the silence came a voice, “Conrad, be not dismayed, for Three times I came to your friendly door; Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the beggar with the bruised feet; I was the woman you gave to eat; I was the child on the homeless street.”
Conrad broke bread and shared it. He had an open heart, and a humble, generous spirit, and a love for the needy. He had learned Christ’s teachings so well that he didn’t need to see the Lord to follow the Lord.
Breaking bread doesn’t seem like much, and yet Luke tells us it’s that little act that shows to the world that Christ is risen.
We need to make ourselves less so God can make more. Accept that God works in small ways. Find your joy in little acts and words and thoughts. May the Lord show you the greatest of smallness and the power of the little things of God’s purpose for you.
Can the church say Amen?