The following is the latest in a series of daily meditations amid the pandemic. For today’s musical pairing, try Anastasiya Petryshak’s performance of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” All songs for this series have been gathered into a Spotify playlist.
“Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?’”
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. … See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is throw into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Matthew 6:25–26, 28–30
Meditation 20. 2,544,769 confirmed cases, 175,621 deaths globally.
It was midnight when I made my way into the center of the Old City of Jerusalem. The clouds were low and impenetrable. Golden light flooded the Western Wall Plaza, which was filled with Jews in all manner of dress chanting and singing in lament. It was a day of mourning, written into the Jewish calendar. Surrounded by the intensity of their cries and weeping, beneath the mount where the temple and the Holy of Holies once stood, it felt as though I stood at the beating heart of the universe.
I wonder how it felt to the Israelites when they returned from their exile and found their city and their temple in ruins. When they began to rebuild, when they set the foundation, it must have seemed so paltry and miniscule compared to the temple that was remembered in the collective consciousness of their people. Some were glad to see a beginning made, but others groaned that the beginning was too modest. Do not “despise the day of small things,” God tells the prophet Zechariah. Unless you place the first stone, you cannot place the last.
The prophet heard right. Zerubbabel restored the temple. It stood for nearly six centuries, expanded by the Hasmoneans and most famously by Herod the Great. By the time Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount in the hills over the Sea of Galilee, it was one of the most renowned structures in the entire world.
Do not be anxious over your food or over your clothing, Jesus taught upon that hillside. God cares about these things for you. He cares about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. How much more will he care about your needs, even those that seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme?
Two thousand years later, we may find ourselves wondering whether God still cares for the flowers and the birds. As we confront a public health crisis unlike anything we have seen in a century, and we receive news of extraordinary need from Tokyo to Italy, London to New York, we may wonder about the little things in our lives. Will my parents grow ill? Will my friend find a job? Will my children fall behind in school?
But we worship a God whose eye is on the sparrow. We worship a God who chose to enter human history in the form of an infant. Who cared for the blind man, and the bleeding woman, and the paralytic. Who had compassion for the anxieties of his disciples. Who, even from the cross, asked Mary and John to take care of one another (John 19:26–27).
He is a God of small things too. Or rather, he is a God for whom nothing is small, when it matters to his children.
Help us, O Lord, to exercise that particular expression of faith of believing you care about even the most minute matters. They matter to you when they matter to us.
Help us also to have faith that even the small things can become great things in time. Even the most monumental works are modest at first. May we find those small beginnings now, where we can build stone upon stone until we have constructed something that will endure to your glory for generations. Amen.
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