We bought a new fermenter. It was big, and bright, being made of shiny, stainless steel. Three times as large as our existing fermenters, we expected it to significantly increase production. And it almost worked!
The brewers were very keen to begin using this new addition to our little brewery so it was soon pressed into service. All seemed to be going well until it was decanted into cans when it filled about thirty cans less than it should have. Another brew was done, yielding the same, disappointing result.
Closer investigation revealed a very small hole, the size of a pinprick in the weld, from which the fermenting beer was very slowly leaking. It wasn’t noticed initially because the fermenter was double-skinned and the liquid was leaking into the insulated jacket, therefore not being visible until after a couple of uses when the jacket was full and liquid started appearing from the legs of the fermenter.
A phone call to the supplier soon brought a tradesman to inspect the problem. Now here’s where things got tricky. The pinprick hole was easily fixed. The damage caused by the hole was nigh on impossible to fix. Half fermented beer, sugar and yeast had soaked the insulation in the jacket. Who knew what bacteria and nasties were lurking in the hidden recesses of our otherwise bright and shiny vessel?
After extended communication, back and forth, the supplier agreed to refund our purchase price and take the fermenter back. Eight months later, the fermenter remains on our property, unclaimed. The tiny pinprick hole has rendered the vessel worthless.
This experience reminds me that small things can have big consequences. In a recurring pattern, almost every important biblical event begins in some very small way.
In Genesis, the creation of the universe begins with the simple sound of God’s voice. The founding of the nation of Israel begins with an infertile couple living in a foreign land. The Exodus story begins with the birth of a baby boy, who needs to survive an edict to kill all such babies.
Most famously, Jesus is born to an unmarried and powerless couple, unknown and unregarded in the vast empire of Rome. After Jesus departs the spread of Christianity is left to a very small and dispirited group of disciples.
Jesus spoke many times about small things having the ability to have big consequences and impacts. He spoke of tiny seeds that carried within them the power to feed and clothe humanity. He spoke of little children and their simple faith. He spoke of the widow who gave just two small coins as her offering. He spoke of God’s care for the tiny sparrow. He spoke of mustard seeds and their ability to grow into something significant.
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32
Things don’t have to be big to be significant. Most of us feel insignificant. We do not walk the world stage. We find it hard to impact the big issues of the day. The media don’t call us for opinions but our small actions and words can make big impacts.
A timely word or deed, small though it be, can have cascading impact. When we call out bad behaviour and racism. When we sign petitions, write letters or phone our local Councillors or Members of Parliament. When we are kind and compassionate and lend a helping hand to someone in need.
Small is not insignificant! Rather than curse the darkness, we light a candle. We stand with Jesus, the light of the world.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.