On the second day of this month, my plane landed in Tel Aviv, Israel. I hopped on a tour bus and then climbed to the summit of a mountain in Galilee and saw my first glimpse of the Lake of Galilee.
My very first thought was: It’s so small!!!
I’ve been imagining the Sea of Galilee for my whole life.
Peter, James and John in a sailboat- out on the rolling sea… Jesus calming the storm… Jesus walking on water and Peter trying to join him….
I didn’t imagine I’d be able to see all sides of it at once. How in the world did they have storms on this little lake that were big enough to scare anyone?
Our guide, Andre, gave us a birds-eye tour around the lake (since we could almost see all of it)…
Right below us- Magdela- where Mary Magdalene was from and then Geresene. Then Capernaum- where Jesus spent a good portion of his 3 years of ministry. As Andre made his way around the lake, I squinted down at the rolling hills and farm land. Tiny little towns and villages. Probably tinier when Jesus lived here.
I’m not sure why I always picture Jesus completely swarmed with masses of people, but as I looked out at the green hillsides before me, it struck me that the whole world as we now know it was changed… from here. Little towns on a fairly small lake in the rolling hills of Galilee. A spark was lit here that would be fanned into flame across the entire globe and even I would hear of the events that transpired here- in a little Sunday School room in Battle Creek Michigan.
I was lost in thought for the rest of the day. I imagined what ministry was like here for Jesus. Poor (but incredibly beautiful!) fishing villages, smelly fishermen, rowdy children, grumpy old men, sad people, hurting people. People that all knew each other because they were from a small town. Gossips, troublemakers, but also kind and generous people.
My biblical imagination had failed to flesh these details out. The disciples, and people Jesus lived alongside, were fairly vague shadow-figures in my mind with just a few sharp personality points- Thomas doubted… Peter was impulsive…. But I’d never imagined what day-to-day life was like for all of them.
Seeing the smallness of this place and realizing the enormity of what God accomplished here gave me such a jolt of excitement that it surprised me.
Because if God can use such a little place and such insignificant people to change the world…then it could happen in Indiana. It could happen with us.
As my week in Israel unfolded I was reminded over and over of how small things can be powerful in the hands of God.
Only a day later, as I was thinking through these things, Dave shared a lesson in Sepphora about this very thing- about how Jesus came from such a tiny, insignificant town. His take-away for us was: “Small things have big significance when they are a part of God’s redemptive plan.” He explained, “Whenever we step into what God is doing, we step from our small story into God’s big story with huge significance.”
Later that day, Andre pointed out mustard plants to us. They were blooming- we were very fortunate to be in Israel during spring- and the bright yellow flowers were everywhere. I thought about how Jesus used this plant in parables and lessons.
Matthew 13: 31-33 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Tiny things…result in things of great size and significance…and in the very next verse:
“He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”
Tiny bits of yeast transform the entire bowl of dough….
Or how about this story, that I thought about as I had a chance to hold a Mina, or a widow’s mite from Jesus’ time in my hand:
Mark 12:41-44 “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Little is much in God’s economy….
So I’ve spent some time this past week thinking about what God is already doing around me. In Josiah Venture and in Fort Wayne. I’ve been asking God to show me where I can join His story more fully- where I can give all of the little bits I have into His hands for His use and glory.
And I guess I am sharing this with all of you to encourage you to do the same, hoping you will catch the excitement of stepping into the great eternal story of God. Hoping we all will allow him to take our small stories, and tiny towns, and weave them into his Big Story- the one that continues to change the entire world with grace!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through out all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21