Dear Friends in Christ,
The morning Erin and I were to leave New York City, the moving van, as expected, was late. Part of the routine when waiting for a moving van in the city includes holding an adequate parking spot. Erin, then nine and a half months pregnant seemed a prime candidate to defend our chunk of street between 9th and 10th Ave. After all, who could say “no” to a pregnant woman waiting in the sun for a late mover? We had sympathy on our side. To reward her heroic effort to stand up to pushy neighbors looking to park, I walked to our corner café to procure croissants and coffee. As I shuffled down the street I couldn’t help but notice a large pile of furniture and junk on the curb two doors down from our stoop. I have something of a disability when it comes to passing up someone else’s junk – a disability that made living in New York very difficult (discarded furniture and junk being rather commonplace in the city) – I just can’t bring myself to walk on by without investigating. Amid the refuse was an intact but slightly tattered old piano bench. I had to have it. Transferring my goodies and drinks to another hand I managed to drag the bench to where Erin was standing. A seat! For my pregnant wife! When the moving van finally arrived and was filled, I slipped the bench in while Erin wasn’t looking. Like I say, I find it difficult to pass on found objects – there is a fine line, in my mind, between junk and treasure.
Months later a friend would refinish and re-cover the bench so that it is now one of our favorite pieces of furniture. What’s even better, it comes complete with a little story. The junk that we turned into treasure…
While it may seem like a stretch, I am firmly convinced that God has an affinity for the discarded, the scraps, the leftovers, the lost and forgotten – what we might call junk. Think about the canon of scripture of all the stories where God lifts up the lowly, the insignificant, the castoffs and despised, and used them for the highest of purposes. One of my favorite pieces of the gospels, in Luke, which we call the Magnificat, has Mary lifting her voice in praise to God, acknowledging that he has lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, that he has, in essence redeemed the insignificant and treated them as treasured and beloved. Think of all the heroes of our faith, the rough shepherds, marginalized women, criminals, folks afflicted with all manner of problems, and how they were filled with a divine purpose and used to spread God’s reconciling love around the world. It seems God can’t pass up someone else castoffs without thinking to himself – “hmmm…. I could use that for something amazing!”
In our culture of opulence and abundance, it sometimes easy to pass up the bargain pile, the discard pile, and the scrap heap. But, our tradition calls us to pay attention to people and places and things that have been tossed aside, to ask ourselves, how is or could God be working through them. One of my favorite collects, found both in the ordination service and as an optional collect on Good Friday says:
“…let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord…”
I invite you to look around you, examine your life, your family, your neighborhood and even this church. Where do you see things which were cast down or which have grown old? What needs redeeming? What needs renewal? I guarantee you, whatever it is, with God’s help, it can be raised up and made new!