This is the message that I gave on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, 30 July 2000, at Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY. The Scriptures for that Sunday were 2 Samuel 11: 1 – 15, Ephesians 3:14 – 21, and John 6: 1 – 21.
The Star Trek movie “The Voyage Home” has two lines that I think are very memorable. The first occurred when the crew had landed in the San Francisco park and where off to find the whales and the materials needed to return home. Kirk told the crew “Remember where we parked,” a line we have all said at one time or another to our children or have been told by our parents.
The second line was when they rescued Chekov from the hospital. When they entered the operating room, it was Kirk, McCoy, and the whale biologists. When they left, it was Kirk, McCoy, the biologist pushing the cart with Chekov on the cart. When the guard noticed this minor discrepancy, Kirk mumbled, “One little mistake.
Life is based a lot of times on the little things. Bill Walton noted that one of the first things he was taught at UCLA was how to put his shoes and socks on. As John Wooden himself later wrote,
This may seem like a nuisance, trivial, but I had a very practical reason for being meticulous about this. Wrinkles, folds, and creases can cause blisters. Blisters interfere with performance during practice and games. Since there was a way to reduce blisters, something the player and I could control, it was our responsibility to do it. Otherwise we would not be doing everything possible to prepare in the best way.” (“Wooden — A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court”, John Wooden with Steve Jamison.)
John Wooden further wrote
David’s downfall as King of Israel began when he failed to keep in mind that it was the attention to the little things that mattered most. Granted, the little things that he failed to remember were the Ten Commandments, of which I think he broke at least three in the passage from the Old Testament we read today. But in reading this passage, you get the feeling that David was beginning to think that he was above the common folk and that being king made him above the little things.
David used his authority as king to take advantage of Uriah’s wife Bathsheba while Uriah was fighting a war for Israel. As a result of David’s sins, Bathsheba became pregnant. David attempted to cover up things by calling Uriah home from battle. In that way, people might think that Bathsheba’s child was Uriah’s.
But Uriah, the ever-dedicated soldier, refused to enjoy the comforts of home while his comrades were still on the battlefield. In doing this, Uriah showed that he was perhaps more righteous than David. It should be noted that while David was the Lord’s anointed, the regent of God on earth, Uriah was a convert to Judaism, not born of the faith. Uriah’s words in 11:11 must have really stung David’s conscience.
“The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” (2 Samuel 11: 11)
Uriah was telling David that he would not neglect his duty, as perhaps he knew David had neglected his own. Moreover, David had stolen the wife of one Israel’s best soldiers while his army was risking their lives for the kingdom and their king. Yet David persisted in covering up his sin; he attempted to break Uriah’s resolve by giving him too much to drink. But this was to no avail, as Uriah would not succumb to the temptation.
Failing to cover up his sin, David plotted Uriah’s death. There is no telling why David would do this. Perhaps he could not face the shame of seeing Uriah after he, Uriah, learned that David had slept with wife. As Uriah returned to the battlefront, he carried the very orders that would ultimately lead to his death.
After Uriah’s death, David quickly married Bathsheba in an attempt to make the child legitimate. However, “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11: 27) And while David was able to conceal his sin from the people of Israel, he could not conceal it from God. Later, in the twelfth chapter of 2 Samuel, David will receive his punishment from God.
Not paying attention to the little things is what caused David to lose favor with God. But I am not saying that the Ten Commandments are little things. There are the keystone for our society and the basis upon which society operates. But if you treat the commandments lightly, you are likely to get into deep trouble.
Success depends on the little things. When you ignore the little things, you get into trouble. When you take into consideration the little things success comes easily. The question for us today is how we see the little things. The simple things that we do each day are often times the little things that make a difference in someone’s life.
The money for the first parsonage at Grace Church in Minnesota came from the estate of a person who had only visited the church once. But because the reception that person received had such an impact on them, when they died, they left a substantial gift to the church. No one in the church knew who had made the impression or when; all the letter said was, in essence, “Thank you.”
Jesus was always looking out for and protecting the little ones. He took the time to see the people in the shadows, the wallflowers, the lepers, and the ones nobody wanted to dance with. It could be that Jesus was sensitive to the unlovely and unloved because he knew what it was like to be considered an outsider. He knew what it felt like to be spit at, mislabeled, verbally and physically abused. He knew what it was to be treated like a king one day and a criminal the next.
His compassion for the little ones of society was seen in the beginning of the Gospel reading for today. The thousands who came to hear him came because he was healing the sick.
But were it not for the boy in the Gospel reading today making the offer is his small lunch, then the multitudes would not have been feed. And while the multiplication of the loaves and fishes are a clear sign of Jesus’ deity, it should be noted that he could not have done the miracle without somebody offering the loaves and fishes in the first place.
In the Epistle reading for today, Paul writes that Christ’s love passes all our knowledge and that God’s ability to do things goes beyond anything we can say or do or imagine. Still I think that the mystery of God’s grace is very simple. As long as we are on this earth, we will never know nor should we desire to know why God cared enough for each of us to send us his Son, who by his death and resurrection would save us from sin and death.
It can be that little thing wasn’t that little after all. But when you stop to think about it, anything we do in this world is little when compared to that.
That is the challenge for us this day. We can never know when it is that what we will do will make an impact on someone; when the one act of simply saying hello to a stranger will make a difference in that person’s life. For the players of the countless teams coached by John Wooden, it was a little thing to put their socks on in a prescribed manner, but the results were the beginning of championships. Having been saved by Christ, what little thing will you do this week that shows others?