I’m embarrassed. I really am. I should know this by now. Yet I miss it. I forget how things happen, how big things happen, how huge things happen. Take this video I found online. I gotta admire the guy. He hiked a decent way to get these shots. And still, he’s only got 980 views. But I’m sure glad JohnTubeSeven made the effort. So, without further ado, here is Howards Creek near beautiful Lake Itasca in Minnesota.
Wow, that’s pretty amazing isn’t? Does that not blow you away? What an awesome creek! I'm being a little sarcastic here. But why did JohnTubeSeven hike through the woods to post a video of that creek. It’s because from that creek comes this….
Does anyone know what that is? Can you guess? It’s the Mighty Mississippi, the greatest river on the continent, one of the biggest in the world. Do you get what these videos point to? They point to the truth that God is giving you in these words that you are about to hear. And when you grasp that truth, it will change the way you see yourself. It will change the way you look at the people around you. It will change how you look at everything? How can that be? Here God shows the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
Do you ever get discouraged by challenges you face, by news you hear? Heck, do you sometimes simply get discouraged by life, what’s moving forward, what’s not? When that happens, what do you do? You remember what God shows you here. God will bring change. God does bring abundance and joy out of scarcity and sadness. But what God brings always starts small. But it doesn’t stay that way. It grows and it grows into something so beautiful, so powerful, so life-giving that not even death can defeat it.
Look at this vision that God gives the prophet Ezekiel. God tells him that a small stream, sheesh, calling it a small stream is being charitable. You could better translate as a drip. Imagine the most unimpressive flow of water you can think of. That’s what this water looked like that Ezekiel saw dripping from the temple’s foundations. But forget the water. That’s not the craziest part of the vision. God is giving a vision of a temple that just got destroyed. It doesn’t even exist anymore except as a pile of rubble.
And already Ezekiel is writing this from exile. The Babylonian army tore him and thousands of others from their home, sending them a thousand miles away to Babylon. And now, in response to an attempted rebellion, the Babylonians have burned that home down, the city of Jerusalem, including the temple at its heart.
Yet, in the middle of this, the worst news imaginable, God gives this vision, this vision of change and abundance. And if God envisioned all that abundance and change in the middle of the worst disaster in Israel’s history, do you get what that tells you? God’s not really worried. God’s not defeated. God doesn’t simply see possibility in the mess. God sees a future, a stunning, absolutely abundant future. So, if you’re facing disappointment or loss, know this. God does not intend that to be the last word in your life. No, God is already seeing a vision that brings joy from your ashes, that brings abundance into your most barren of places. But you can miss that, if you don’t see how God’s abundance comes. God’s abundance always starts small. But it doesn’t stay that way.
Think about it. You started out small, as a little one celled embryo, but you didn’t stay that way. Take an acorn. When you put that small seed in the ground does it stay that way? No, it grows into a huge tree. But that acorn doesn’t hold that one tree, it holds millions. Think about it. What will that oak tree produce? More acorns. From that one acorn you can fill an entire continent with trees. Now, that is some abundance.
In your life, don’t discount the small things, the small steps forward. That’s how God begins. Too often folks get discouraged because they are looking for some dramatically big move from God. Meanwhile, they are stepping over the acorns, the seeds of abundance that God is laying in their path. God’s abundance always starts small. But it doesn’t stay that way.
This drip from the temple doesn’t stay a drip. As Ezekiel walks down the hill about a quarter mile or so, the drip become a stream, one that reaches his ankles. Then Ezekiel keeps walking. The water reaches his knees. And then, he walks further. And now this stream has become a river, a huge river.
But this river does something that no river has ever done. Do you see what it is? Does anyone know what happens to the Mighty Mississippi when it empties into the Gulf of Mexico? How does it change? It goes from fresh to salty. But does that happen here? No. this river from the temple changes the salty to fresh. And it doesn’t change some minor league body of salt water like the Gulf of Mexico. This river changes the saltiest body of water in existence, one so salty hardly anything lives in it. That’s why it’s called the Dead Sea. But this river changes that. In this river, even the Dead Sea becomes full of life.
And that change points you to the deeper story of this vision. God is not giving a vision of some specific future for some specific place in one ancient city. God is giving you a vision of how God brings the future to you, to everyone, even to this entire world.
After all, do you know the one thing that the city of Jerusalem never had, that it still doesn’t have. It doesn’t have a river. It doesn’t even have a lake or any body of water. In fact, pretty much every great world city but Jerusalem exists on or near a body of water. Yet in this vision, God sees just that. Why is that? It’s because God isn’t talking about some city in Israel. God is talking about a change, an abundance, a future that exists right now and right here for everyone, a future, an abundance God intends for the whole world.
But here’s the problem. Too many people stay stuck looking at the ruins of some destroyed temple. They can’t see beyond the failure or loss. Or maybe they see the beginnings of new life, some drips of water flowing from the ruins. But they think, what sort of new life comes from that, something that small, that unimpressive. They don’t realize. That’s how all new life begins, all change comes, all abundance flows. But you’ve got to be willing to follow the flow no matter how small or how unimpressive it looks.
Next week, we’ll join in the Souper Bowl of Caring. If this year stays consistent with other years, folks will raise millions and millions of dollars in one day to feed hungry people. But do you think it started that way?
It began with a prayer from a guy named Brad Smith. He just prayed these words. "Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" But from that small prayer came an idea. And so, the church where he was working decided to do a fundraiser for the hungry the following year on Super Bowl Sunday. And don’t think this was some mega-church with thousands of members. No, where this began, Spring ValleyPresbyterian in Columbia South Carolina wasn’t a mega church then. It’s not a mega church now. That’s why they decided to get 21 other churches to join them. And together those 22 churches in 1990 raised a whopping 5700.00, not even $300.00 per church, not all that impressive. But from that small drip of a beginning, they kept following the flow. And each year, the flow got a little stronger, the water got a little deeper. Seven years in, they broke the one-million-dollar mark. And now almost 30 years in, the Souper Bowl of Caring has raised close to a 150 million dollars. But what if they had looked at that $5,700.00 and said, “Oh well. That was nice, but it’s not really all that much.” Nothing would have happened. But no, they said. “We’ve going to follow this flow and see where God takes it.” And look, where God has.
Whether it be in this church or in your life, don’t be discouraged by small beginnings. That how God always begins. Keep following the flow. See where God takes it. Heck, don’t just follow the flow, get in it. Ezekiel didn’t only look at the water. He got in it. He got his feet wet.
And if you doubt what God can do, then you don’t really see from where this water flows. It doesn’t simply flow from the temple. It flows from the altar. It flows from the place where blood flowed from animals whose death showed what it costs to make right what is wrong in this world. But those animals only pointed to the cost that in Jesus, God himself would pay to make right, all that is wrong in you, in me, in this entire world. And when Jesus died, it did not look impressive, an obscure man dying as a common criminal in an insignificant part of a vast empire. But from that small beginning, from that cross, from that empty tomb, God began a flow of life that grows deeper and wider by the day. That flow is changing the world even now, in ways more amazing than you even realize. As awful as things are in the world, do you know the world has fewer wars now than ever before in human history? Do you know a smaller portion of the world lives in deep poverty than ever has before in human history?
Things are changing. But more than that, God’s flow has the power to change you, to change me, to change this church. And at times, that flow can seem small, but don’t ever doubt the power of what God can do, of the abundance God can bring. So follow in the flow, get in the flow, get your feet wet. Let God do in you, let God do in us, let God do in this world what only God can do, which is more than any of us could ever ask or dream or imagine.