Nehemiah 11:1-2; 12:27-47
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
According to chaos theory, the science of the nonlinear and the unpredictable, if a butterfly in New Mexico flaps its wings at precisely the right moment, eventually it will cause a hurricane in China. Called The Butterfly Effect, it’s a demonstration of how small, seemingly insignificant acts can cause big, often surprising results. Teachers know this all too well: they understand that although they might have a student in class for only a brief time, their positive influence can continue throughout that student’s life in the form of good habits, self-discipline, and newfound passion for a subject, perhaps a life’s work. Of course, teachers aren’t the only ones who make a difference. All of us can be difference makers by our everyday acts of kindness. Nobody can predict with certainty what the long-term effect of each small act will be, but such acts tend to inspire more acts, and so on and so on. Lives are changed by small acts.
The wall surrounding and protecting Jerusalem was finished. All the people had gathered to hear the reading of the Law, mourned and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors, and made a binding agreement to be faithful to God, who had always been faithful to them. Now, leaders of the people, including those from the surrounding towns who volunteered or were chosen by lot, settled in the city, and it was time to dedicate the wall. The scripture makes the event sound like a well-choreographed worship service, with musicians, choirs, thanksgiving and rejoicing, and even an offering. The sound of celebration must have resonated far beyond the newly restored gates of the city. Who knows how many people heard the joyful noise and were inspired by it, perhaps to make a life change?
When we consider the impact that the church can make, we might think about our entire congregation or even our denomination and all its resources. We might be inspired to imagine all the big things we could accomplish if only we acted in unison. Jesus talked a lot about individuals, about personal accountability and sacrifice and faith. We need the church, but the church cannot save us. Only Jesus can do that, has done that, through his sacrifice on the cross. Each of us must confess our sins and accept his gift of salvation individually. Then we must submit to his authority in our lives so that he can remake us, sanctify us. As a new creation, we are then free to carry his light into the world. Our small flames, our acts of kindness, patience, mercy, and grace, can make a huge, resounding impact as they spread through our homes, our communities, and our world.
Our small, beleaguered world, which seems to be growing darker every day. The apostle John wrote of Jesus, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” In times like these, maybe we aren’t so sure. We believe that ultimately evil cannot win, but in the short term it often seems to be more powerful than good. When we look around, read or watch the news, or engage on social media, we might become discouraged. We might lose hope. We might beg God to intervene. But it’s important to remember that he already has. He loved the world so much that he sent his only Son into the world to die for us. To be the light that illuminates our way and restores our hope. And now, it’s up to us to share that light, small as it may seem to us, by sharing the good news of salvation through him. Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who dedicated her life to caring for some of the most destitute people in the world, wrote, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The butterfly that flaps its wings has no idea of its impact on the other side of the world. What might be the impact of our small acts of faith done with great love?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship. (Discovery Hour is on summer break but will return September 16.) Children’s worship will be offered for those age four through second grade, and nursery care will be available for littlest ones.