My dear brothers in pastoral ministry,
It’s been my honor to serve you the past 18 months as director of Grow in Grace. A particular honor of this calling was writing Grace Notes, meant to be an encouraging word for pastors in your oh-so-high calling. Since I have taken the Call to serve as pastor at Atonement Lutheran in Milwaukee, this will, I assume, be my final Grace Note to you.
I decided to write on a favorite passage of mine, Zechariah 4:10a, “Who despises the day of small things?”
Remember the context? The Israelites had returned from exile. Well, more accurately, a small group of them, 42,360, had returned. (cf. Ezra 2:64.) That’s a nation?! We’d maybe call that a city!
When they got to the land, they’d started to rebuild the temple, laying the foundation. On the day they dedicated that foundation, there was a mixture of emotions. Some were joyous; others were sad!
Sad? Why so?
They were sad because they could already see that this temple just wasn’t going to be as impressive as Solomon’s temple! This wasn’t going to be great! In Haggai, God summarizes what many of them were saying/thinking: “Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (Haggai 2:3)
Zechariah (along with Haggai) had encouraged the people to rebuild the temple. Was he taken aback by the mourning? Was he one of those who was mourning? We don’t know.
What we do know is that it was in that context that God said to him, “Who despises the day of small things?” This temple looked “small,” looked insignificant.
Dear fellow pastor. Often our work can look/feel that way. Making that shut-in visit … it just doesn’t seem all that spectacular. Preparing the service folder? Ho-hum, the normal weekly task. So many evangelism calls seem to bear no fruit. Many of us who preached hardly remember the sermon from last week; how would we expect anyone else to remember it?! Even the sacraments, in their outward appearance, seem to be so insignificant.
“Does it not seem to you like nothing?”
Dear pastor. Know that the work you’re doing has huge significance! Each time you deliver the Word, distribute the Supper, baptize a person, you are serving as a representative of God Himself. That is amazing! Indeed, that can never be “nothing!” As you do those things, you are giving people what they really need: the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation. Again, that is amazing! That can never be “nothing!”
And of course, who knows what comes of your work? Who knows if one of those babies you baptized might become a staff minister or a pastor or a teacher? Who knows if that last door you knocked on might one day show up at Bible Instruction Class? Who knows if that one prospect you confirmed might bring many others to come to know Jesus? Who knows if that child you confirmed, but who wandered away, might be graciously brought back to the faith late in life? We just don’t know.
But God knows. He knows what He’s doing through you, through the work you’re doing.
And he knew what that new temple would be like. The Israelites thought it was “small,” insignificant, nowhere near as glorious as Solomon’s temple. The reality? It would be far, far, far greater! First, Herod would make this temple one of the most amazing architectural wonders of the world, far greater architecturally than Solomon’s temple.
But far more importantly, Jesus would come to this temple. And it was in this temple that the curtain would be torn in two, telling us that God has repaired the relationship between Him and us humans, forever. Was this a “small” temple? No! This was a GREAT temple! Because God would do great things in, and in connection with, this temple!
And dear pastor, God is doing GREAT things through you, too. Please know it! Please never forget it! (And yes, it’s easy to not think that’s the case.)
My time running Grow in Grace has been “small.” I pray that God has accomplished some things – maybe even great things – during this time. I’m very excited to hand the reigns over to Prof. Brad Wordell. He will be excellent! God has blessed him with the gift of wisdom; I’m sure he’ll bless you with that wisdom richly through the upcoming years!
As for me? I’m looking forward to rejoining you in the trenches! What honor is ours, to serve God’s saints, to reach out to those who are not yet saints! Yes, it will include many “small things,” things which may feel mundane, common. My prayer is that God uses the many “small things” which we do to accomplish even more GREAT things!
For after all, “Who despises the day of small things?”