God loves small things, too!: an offering meditation

I never actually met Ed, my paternal grandfather; he died well before I was born. But I admire the handsome face I see peering back at me in the handful of grainy photographs I’ve perused and enjoy the stories of his life that have been passed down through my family. From what I gather, he was not a physically imposing man nor was he blessed with enormous talent. He was not rich, not important, and not famous in any way. From what I understand, he was absolutely ordinary, but he did something quite extraordinary.

His oldest son, my father, played high school football in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dad’s teams never competed for the state championship, but Dad loved to play and was pretty good at it, so of course his parents went to the games to cheer on their son and watch him compete.

At some point in one of the seasons, a soaking rainstorm blew in and deluged the field. No lightning or thunder, so they didn’t need to postpone, but the conditions were miserable for players and fans. The game itself was not noteworthy from a competition standpoint, in fact, I don’t recall ever being told who won the game. But at some point during this cold and wet match, my Dad said he stole a quick look toward the sidelines and noticed a single person standing there in a trench coat and hat while holding an umbrella. He was the only one who stayed to watch, resolutely refusing to leave until the final whistle. Supporting his son no matter what.

This small act may have seemed insignificant to him at the time, just a routine part of doing what fathers are supposed to do, but it meant the world to his son. Later this month, Dad will turn 89 years old, and he still speaks fondly of this one memory. Of all the precious things I know about my grandfather, this is the memory I cherish the most.

Do you ever wonder if your offering is too small to matter? A couple-a-bucks isn’t really going to make much of a difference in the collection plate—right? Perhaps your finances are stretched to the limit already, and a couple-a-bucks is all you can spare. But God’s plans are infinite and eternal, so He really doesn’t need my puny contribution—does He?

A proper tithe is how much? Really? Would $10 do?

If we examine the Scriptures, it’s clear that size matters to God, but perhaps not the way you might think…

In Judges 7, God reduced the size of Gideon’s band of warriors because they were too big, and a mighty foe was vanquished.

1 Samuel 9 tells us that Saul, Israel’s first king, was a Benjamite, the smallest of all Israel’s clans. And in chapter 16, we learn that David was the youngest of all his brothers, only good enough to tend sheep, but he became a man after God’s own heart!

Micah, a minor Old Testament prophet, foretold that the small town of Bethlehem would serve as the birthplace of the Messiah.

The narrow opening, the tiny mustard seed and a little child all served as important object lessons in Christ’s teachings.

We also know that Jesus fed 5000 men, not counting women and children, with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. And we’ve all heard how Jesus was most impressed by the poor woman who put her last two small coins in the offering.

During offering time, we often discuss larger amounts, like 10% of your household income. But maybe, just maybe, the small and seemingly insignificant can make the most lasting mark of all, just like one man standing all alone in the pouring rain. You just have to give it.

[[prayer]]

Let us pray…

  • Father God, You have made it abundantly clear in Your Word that You can do great things with the small, the tiny, the weak and the insignificant.
  • Small or large, let our offerings today and everyday be a fragrant gift to You.

Repetition: a communion meditation

I grew-up during the 1980s. We were defined by our big hair, skinny ties, and loud shirts–all essential parts of the 80’s kid’s uniform. And as with all generations, there were a handful of movies that also defined us—one of those was Karate Kid.

If you haven’t seen it, Karate Kid tells the story of a displaced teen named Daniel who is befriended by an elderly Japanese gentleman named Mr. Miyagi who helps him learn karate. The turning point in the movie happens when Daniel discovers that the common household chores Miyagi assigned him are actually basic training. Not only do the chores seem completely unrelated to karate, but they are also quite repetitive.

If you’ve seen the movie, relive these memorable quotes with me: “Wax on; wax off!” Miyagi shouts this unforgettable command while Daniel washes and waxes the old man’s small fleet of classic autos. Daniel also sands Miyagi’s new deck (“Sand the floor!”), paints his house (“Side to side!”), and paints his fence (“Up! Down!”) Those were great Hollywood moments!

The sheer amount of repetition involved in Daniel’s hard physical labor results in a fair amount of muscle memory, which–according to the movie–forms an excellent base for many karate moves. You might say Miyagi’s odd teaching methods helped Daniel to form new habits.

Like me, you may have heard that it takes 21 days to learn or break a habit. That has since been proven false. It turns out the timeframe can vary from 18-254 days depending on the habit, but it’s generally accepted that 66 days are needed for a new behavior to become automatic.

So based on this, you might start to wonder, like I did, about God’s use of repetition. For example, in the Old Testament:

  • The 10 Commandments are introduced in Exodus 10, but Moses brings them back in Deuteronomy 5.
  • Deuteronomy 19:15 says that a matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles are essentially duplicate accounts of Israel’s and Judah’s kingdoms.
  • Multiple prophets warned Israel and Judah to repent or face consequences.

And it continues in the New Testament:

  • Jesus answers Satan’s temptations with verses from Deuteronomy and Psalms.
  • Jesus also sums up the law from Leviticus and Deuteronomy into the Greatest Commandment: to love God and our neighbors.
  • The Gospels are essentially four separate accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry.
  • Jesus foretells his death three separate times.

Repetition even bridges both Testaments:

  • The command “Do not fear!” appears 365 times throughout the Bible.

So, all of this repetition got me thinking about how we incorporate communion into EVERY church service. Why do we do that? Does the Bible command it? Scholars fall on both sides of this question and are quick to quote book/chapter/verse as evidence for their argument.

To me, it feels like we over-analyzed the question. When I read God’s Word, it is plain to see that communion is mentioned in all four Gospels. Luke emphasizes communion’s pre-eminence in chapter 22, verse 19 by quoting Jesus as saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Not to be outdone by a physician, the Apostle John’s account of the Last Supper is five chapters long (13-17)! So, it must be important to merit so much attention and repetition—right?

Yes! Important enough–some would say–that we should preserve its special place in our worship by limiting the number of times we partake of the bread and wine together. These folks—often times our spiritual brothers and sisters!—say we shouldn’t take anything this special for granted.

Me? Count me as an ardent member of the repetition-is-good camp, whose members claim it is precisely because Christ’s sacrifice is so special and so central to our faith that we should definitely celebrate and remember it EVERY Sunday. Good News this good is worth repeating!

[[the bread]]

At the Last Supper, as Jesus reclined with his Disciples at the table…he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

[[the juice]]

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

[[prayer]]

Let us pray…

  • Our congregation, this tiny corner of Your infinite kingdom, comes before you EVERY Sunday to celebrate and remember the sacrifice of Your one and only son on the cross for our sins.
  • You clearly used repetition throughout Your Word to emphasize various points, and one of the obvious examples is communion.
  • Thank you! Thank you! And again, we say THANK YOU for creating this path to eternal life! May we never forget it.