Margaret Mead once wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
She was an anthropologist, she studied human culture, and her studies showed her that it is the little person, who acts on what they believe, that makes a difference.
We might not always know their names; like the Chinese student who stood in front of the row of tanks during the Tiananmen Square uprising in the eighties, or they might become heroes, like Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat in the whites only section of the Alabama bus she was riding.
I think it might surprise us to go through history and see how often the actions of one person have changed everything.
It can be a famous person, or a stranger; a leader, or an average citizen… but that one person, if they are thoughtful and committed, will make a difference.
With the Kids – Making a Difference
The Ryan’s Well Foundation grew from the commitment of one boy, Ryan Hreljac, who learned of the great need for clean and safe water in developing countries in his 1st grade class. With the support of friends, family and the community, Ryan raised enough money to build a well in Africa. In 1999, at age seven, Ryan's first well was built at Angolo Primary School in northern Uganda. To this day, the well continues to serve the community.
Although Ryan started raising money for water projects in 1998, the Foundation was not formed until 2001. Since then, Ryan’s Well has helped build over 700 wells and 830 latrines bringing safe water and improved sanitation to over 736,000 people.
Resting My Soul
Our Psalm makes a big deal about relying on God. The Psalms usually do. God is my refuge, my mighty rock, my salvation…
Tradition holds that the Psalms were written by King David. They were written as poems, or perhaps even hymns to be used in worship. They were meant not as logical statements about God, but as emotional reactions to God.
Not so different than our hymns are meant to be. I mean, think about it… last week we sang “Open my Eyes, that I may see and Here I am Lord… today we have already sung Seek Ye First and Tell the stories of Jesus… these are emotional songs… they stir feelings in us… they remind us of not only our love for God, but God’s love for us.
That is a key point. God’s love for us.
The great leaders of the Bible, Like King David when he wrote the Psalm; are not really all that talented, or special – sometimes they are the last and least – but they recognize something at a very deep level; they recognize that God loves them, and that God empowers them.
Sometimes, like Jonah, they are stubborn. Sometimes, like the King in the city of Ninevah, they recognize right away when God is at work in their midst. But at some point, they see that it is God who is empowering them to be better than they could be on their own.
Mother Theresa, someone who many people would call saintly in her actions; was, as she herself claimed, a very average person; someone who got angry, who lost faith, who was often tired and cranky… but she knew something else.
She once said this: “I try to give to the poor people for love - what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.”
It’s sort of a variation of the “there but for the grace of God go I” theme. To say that we realize that we could not possibly do it on our own – that our own courage would fail us – that our own sense of inadequacy, or shy-ness would get in the way…
But with God, with God, all things are possible.
This past week was the day we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. A social activist who changed the way blacks and whites see each other forever. But before that, he was a simple preacher. He knew what I am talking about. He was humbled by who he had become just by being willing to stand up. Here are, prophetically, some of the last words he said:
“I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
That is what we need to be about. Believing that as we do God’s will, it is about more than us, it is about the horizon, and the Promised Land just beyond.
Recognizing the Moment
I don’t believe Jesus did random things.
I don’t think he just happened to be walking upon that stretch of beach that particular morning. I think he knew these guys.
Maybe he had seem them with John the Baptist like Nathaniel and the lads, Maybe he saw them yesterday at the rally where he was preaching… but somehow, I think they made an impression on him and he knew them – saw into their souls. Knew they were destined for greater things.
So it is not to random fishermen that Jesus offered this call. It is to Simon… and Andrew… and James… and John. It is to people who were destined to become preachers, and apostles… Jesus knew intimately that they were not living out their true gifts and their potential, and he offered them a choice.
That is the reason they jumped at it. They were already thinking about it. They were probably fishermen because that is what was expected of them, or because it was the only opportunity, or because they were following in their father’s footsteps…
But along comes someone who knows better and offers them a choice, God’s choice… and they leap at it.
Don’t get me wrong. My father knew when he was 10 that he wanted to be a doctor, and he will die a retired doctor. That was his calling. No one had to come along and tell him to change. Somehow he knew himself enough. And a lot of us do too.
But others of us are waiting for that call. And I guarantee it comes to each of us.
“Come with me” is the equivalent of God waking you up at night with a whisper saying “join the church” or “be an accountant” or “go back to school” or “forgive your sister”…
Or whatever it would take to put you on the right track.
I firmly believe that for most of us call is not a onetime thing, it is a lifetime journey. The thing is we have to be thinking a little about what life has in store for us and be willing to take risks to get there.
Imagine how different James life would have been if he had decided to finish mending the nets and ignore Jesus? The question for me is always that, am I ignoring what God wants me to do.
It is something for all of us to think about.
All of us are called, all of us are servants. What we forget is that it is how we live our lives that makes a difference, not what we believe.
I think Martin Luther King said this best too, so I leave you with this to consider:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well!”