Thursday, November 08, 2012

Little Things

Thursday, November 8, 2012  -- Week of Proper 26, Year 2

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 991)
Psalm 70, 71 (morning)     //     74 (evening)
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15  (found in the Apocrypha; also called Sirach)
Revelation 16:12-21
Luke 13:18-30

There is much comfort in little things.  In today's gospel reading Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in small images -- a mustard seed, a bit of yeast.  Almost invisible, over time they make much effect.  Quiet growth happens.  The tiniest seed becomes a great home; a small bit of yeast becomes an enormous feast.  ("three measures of flour" is almost fifty pounds)  "Strive to enter by the narrow door," Jesus tell us.  The little door opens to the great banquet.  Strive.  Persevere.  Mix the yeast into the intimidating three measures.  The narrow path of trust and perseverance is taking you quietly where you need to be.  Don't let distractions and frustrations discourage you.  Continue.  Grace happens.

There is something today in Ecclesiasticus that is touching.  The author Ben Sira is a noble man.  Most of his concerns are from the perspective of a person of privilege.  We begin reading his most well-known passage today -- "Let us now sing the praises of famous men..."  He wishes to inspire through the remembrance of his nation's heroes.  Everyone in the list is someone who held some religious or political office.  They were important and renowned:  "All these were honored in their generations, and some were the pride of their times."

But then Ben Sira shifts his focus toward other ancestors, little people, hidden, unknown.  "But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.  But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; ...Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out.  Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation."

Several years ago Kathy and I visited the little town of Inverary, Scotland where her ancestors lived.  A certain Dougal McKellar (sp?) left there in the late 1700's to come to the new world.  Kathy's family traces their origin through him.  In the little Scottish cemetery we saw the familiar names that have been passed down from generation to generation among the McKellars.  We know nothing of these people or their lives, yet we could feel so deeply connected to them in that sacred place where they are buried in peace.  Their quiet, hidden past is the essential energy that makes possible the lives that continue now in our grandchildren.

I am brought back to the wisdom of Psalm 71, and it's solid opening:  "In you, O God, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed.  ...Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold."  The writer is small and threatened.  But he sets his trust in God.  "For you are my hope, O God, my confidence since I was young.  ...And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, till I make known your strength to this generation and your power to all who are to come."

He rests in those little things that give us strength.  "Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long.  ...I shall always wait in patience and shall praise you more and more.  ...You have shown me great troubles and adversities, but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth.  You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me."

Tradition gives authorship of the Psalms to David, one of those heroes listed by Ben Sira.  But scholars tell us we can't know their true origin.  Court poets or others, quietly writing in their humble cells maybe?  Doing little things.  Straining for the right word that conveys the wonder of being enfolded and comforted by the divine. 

It is the small things that take us forward into great meaning.  And though we may be small -- a little mustard seed, a pinch of yeast; hidden, almost invisible -- from such smallness emerges the Kingdom of God. 

O God of peace, you have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength:  By they might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  (the collect for Quiet Confidence, Book of Common Prayer, p. 832)


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to:

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tall weeds the color of wheat
Blow and twist and toss their fragile heads on the distant ridge -
It's a bright crisp world

Emily Dickinson states in poetic ferver how can the grass keep her place when the wind moves over her she must dance..

God's Love and Light pours through all that was, is, will be. It is a yielding love, bending our brokenness into gentle submission, softening hard hearts and sharp faced edges of fear with flowing grace.

I like best the barrenness of autumn, naked trees, piled and blown leaves, when you look with softened eyes and heart the love light of Christ imbues all.

Prayer and pumpkin spice and apple cider and rain dampened earth mix for an autumnal feast.

It's a bright crisp world. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Peace and Blessing,

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the poetry and images, Janet. You are ahead of us moving toward the winter's barrenness. It is colorful and leaf-raining here. Soft and crisp with autumn colors. God's Love and Light pours through it all.



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