19 June, 2007

The Day of Small Things

Zechariah 4:10 (whole chapter)
For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

The commentators (I cannot get past thinking of them as commmon 'taters) disagree on some stuff about this passage and agree about other stuff. They are all sure, for example, who Zerubbabel is - but they don't agree ;-). For my part, I cannot imagine He is anyone but Christ.

They all agree, though, that the plummet (what we hicks call a plumb-bob) means that Zerubbabel is being very careful about His work. A plummet is used to make sure every wall is exactly straight. They also agree that the 7 eyes of the Lord mean that He will not be surprised by His enemies. He knows everything that is opposed to Him, and has accounted for it.

Most surprisingly, though, they all agree that the day of small things was the day that the work was beginning. It was the time of the early church, but it is over now.

I used to agree with them.

I need to set some kind of a baseline for the discussion to begin. The chapter as a whole is about the Messiah building His kingdom. This verse is meant to encourage and exhort those who might be uncomfortable with how little progress is being made toward its completion. Even in the day of small things and little progress and invisible growth, the Messiah is building straight walls, and sees every move of his enemies.

The work may be small, but it is true.

Today, though, (and all the 'tators would seem to agree) is not the day of small things.

Today, Christianity is the largest religion in the entire world, almost doubling its nearest competitor in size. Very nearly one out of every three people on this orb calls themselves Christian. And I only wish I could get some kind of reference numbers on the budgets of the different religions. I would be shocked to learn that Christianity were not raking in money faster than anyone can count it.

The thing is, I don't see anything that says the day of small things ended.

I will be honest with you. I didn't always feel this way. I wanted to see the home church kick the denominational churches' butts, and I wanted the truth to conquer the hierarchies. I'm probably trying to understand why things are not going the way I think they should in the Christian world. But as I watch the world go by, and as the dreams of my twenties continue their long fade to black, I just don't see anything large that seems to express the kingdom faithfully.

I see great things happening, but I don't see the kingdom - or maybe I see too much of it. The visible church is doing commendable things, but Christ seemed to think His kingdom would be small, invisible even.

For better or worse, I have learned to doubt big things. Big things seem always to be human things. It is taking me a while to learn not to despise small things, but it's coming. I am starting to wonder if a garden is not a better thing for the kingdom than sending a missionaries overseas for two weeks with a plan to post 10,000 handbills in preparation for the showing of the Jesus Film. I'm wondering whether supporting our neighbors, and resisting our evil neighbors, isn't a greater thing for the kingdom than supporting a national house church conference.

When I look around, I keep seeing small things making a difference, and big things making noise. I see wonderful Romanian believers taught to doing everything just like the Americans, and slammed when they don't. And I see Christian empires extending their reach as far as their budgets will take them.

I received a quote via email today, and it really seems to fit here:

An extract from the autobiography of Plenty-Coups (1848-1932) a chief of the Crow Nation:
Their wise ones said we might have their religion, but when we tried to understand it we found that there were too many kinds of religion among white men for us to understand, and that scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one to learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings with strangers

Our bigness makes it impossible for us to be one without compromise. Our separateness makes it impossible for us to fully support each other. Our disunity shames our Lord. And so the push is on throughout the Christian world to inspire unity.

Maybe we should quit seeking unity, and start seeking smallness.


Milly said...

Good stuff

Missy said...

Very wise indeed. As you get older have you found that the scope of your "destiny" has gotten smaller yet more meaningful? And by destiny, I mean what you thought you were all about doing when you were young.

(You'll have excuse my terminology and introspection - I just watched all 8 episodes of Chad Vadar on YouTube.)

codepoke said...

It's 10 days later, Missy. Sorry about that.

Yeah, you're probably right about my destiny. That's pretty much was I was trying to say, but being me I had to do it in a long and confusing way. :-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting. You posted (here) about bigness and smallness. Then, months later (up, above), you posted a link to an article (which I read in full) about social networking and the web.

My favorite line from that article seems to fit your questions from this post well. It was:

"Constitutions are a necessary component of large, long-lived, heterogenous groups."

And my thoughts were:

If you refuse to have rules [a constitution] then you give up ONE of the three elements listed there. For example, I know of large, long-lived, homogenous groups. I've heard of large, short-lived, heterogenous groups. And I've experienced small, long-lived, heterogenous groups.

These days, I'm wondering if the Lord prefers small AND short-lived. (Given that all xian groups are 'hetero' in flesh, and ought to be 'homogenous' in spirit.)

Interesting thoughts...

By the way...

Hi, Kev. Is our bowling night back on?


codepoke said...

Hehehe. Bowling night.

Looks like quite a job you've got going there, and a worthy bit of work it is. Are you hurting for raw data? I might be able to provide tidbits from time to time as I stumble across them in my reading.

And I'm glad to read the good news about your family. Congrats. The kids must be half way through grade school by now.


Large, long-lived, & homogenous.
The Lord's way with small things.

It's an interesting opposition and a constitution makes a nice focal point. Maybe as long as there is true leadership, the constitution can be put off for quite a while.

I'm not ready to say the Lord wants small and short-lived, though I can understand why you might hold that He does.

Nice to hear from you, Bill, and good thoughts.