A little over three years ago, Bishop Joanna Penberthy addressed the people of St David’s Cathedral with these words,
“‘Lords, brothers and sisters, rejoice and keep your faith and the Creed, and do the little things you have heard and seen of me. As for me, I shall walk the way which our fathers went.’
[Those were the] “Words from the last sermon of St David – Dewi Sant; words that have been cherished, loved, and passed down through the centuries; words that are as relevant today as they were then.
“St. David lived at time where sweeping changes began to leave their mark in the history of Wales.” The Romans had left a hundred years before and the local Welsh and British chieftains fought against each other. It was a time of change, of uncertainty and a time where new ways of thinking were coming in, and the champions of the old ways – as ever – pushed back.
With the invasion of the German Saxons, a new language, new political ideas, new religion, and new traditions added even more stress and uncertainty. It was a time of change where the past was equally and uncritically condemned or glorified. In their own way, they had to deal with the challenges of “globalization” and a new and challenging self-awareness.
We too live in a time of change, where past, present, and future offer no clear roadmap. As a matter of fact, we live at a time where the past, the present, and the future fight against each other trying to lord over our lives, our livelihood, and even our souls. Never mind the claims of Jesus Christ, the Lord of All.
Against such backdrop, like in times past, St David offers us simple and yet enduring words to help us not only to survive but to thrive.
In the words of the late San Francisco’s Orthodox Archbishop John, they offer us “the simplest and surest way to enter the world of the spirit and draw near to God” – Rejoice, keep your faith, and take care of the little things.
Again, let me quote Bishop Joanna, “Like St Paul [writing to his brothers and sisters in Philippi], St David was not calling for a rejoicing that shuts its eyes and ears to reality, a whistling in the dark; but for a rejoicing that is rooted in trust, rooted in a learning to trust the love of the God who calls us into being. [It is] a rejoicing that is open-eyed to the complicated reality of our own lives and the complex times in which we live.
“Trusting in God is not like having a magic wand. Problems cannot just be waved away but they can be lived through, moment by moment, patiently and even joyfully when we open our minds and hearts to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A God, who in the words of today’s gospel, a God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
A God who still invites us to come into his presence with our doubts and contradictions, with our desires to please God and yet with our reservations. A God who sent his beloved Son into the world not to condemn it but to offer rivers of living waters for parched souls.
According to St David, in advising his followers to keep the faith was not advocating for a spiritual or mental exercise. He said, “do what you have heard and see me doing.”
Faith, even if involves our hearts, minds, spirit, and soul is incarnational, tangible. God so loved the world that Jesus came to be born, to live, to die, and to be risen in the resurrection, like any one of us. That is to say God in Jesus Christ literally fleshed out the meaning of “faith.”
In the same way that it is impossible to separate the yolk from the white while they still are inside the eggshell, faith involves both our doing and even our speaking as it involves our hearts and souls in believing.
St James put it this way, “‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds,’” (James 2:18).
“Taking care of the small things” is a saying that faithfully portraits the life and ministry of this small congregation that it is our church.
Yes, I know. I know that you are doing your very best and way beyond. I know that you may feel overwhelmed by the demands of this “small thing” that it is St David’s.
Let me say a few words about another famous David the young shepherd who went on to become King David. I like David’s story. As a young man, he faced what appeared to be an impossible task – defeat a giant enemy that so far no one had been able to defeat.
Under the eyes of the King Saul, his own family and his enemy, David was going to waste his time and even his own life.
I can imagine people saying, “The poor thing – He has no chance!” And so, David was offered the best body armor of the day and biggest sword available.
Even as he considered his enemy, David set the armor and sword aside, and entrusted himself to the things at hand – His slingshot and his impassioned faith in the living God. On the one hand he looked not at his size, his youth, or the failures of others in facing the same enemy.
On the other hand, he looked to what he literally had at hand – a slingshot, some river pebbles, and to what God could do through his faith. And against all human odds, he went on to defeat giants.
In other words, he trusted the small little things – His simple faith and a slingshot. He had a “slingshot-sized” kind of faith.
And this is what you all have, as it is shown by your labor of love for such a long time.
You have been taking care of reports and minutes, playing the organ, reading the lessons, being present in church even if it is cold, going to the bank, replacing sidings and roofs, hanging for dear life to fix the steeple, and bringing food for the poor.
You have been faithful in your giving to the church, giving money for clothing, bikes, and small gifts that would bring happiness to a young boy or girl. You have kept open the doors of the church and all the thousand and one small things that keep our church alive.
You have been keeping the faith and doing the small things – even if at times it required all of you, and then some – like supporting this old long-winded preacher!
All are proof of your love to God and neighbor.
My brothers and sisters – Today let me encourage you with these words. “Be of good cheer and remain joyful and true to your faith. Over small matters you have been proved faithful, and so God will entrust with overflowing blessings as no one has ever seen before.”