Sunday, 24 January 2010


The word 'rubbish' came up several times in church this morning.

God still loves us, even if we 'rubbish' him.

And... "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him" (Philippians 3:8, NIV)

Of course, even though the NIV is what I am most familiar with, I love the fresh take of The Message: The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

But my take on rubbish was different.

I had an idea that each of us looks like a shiny black plastic bin bag, all tied up neatly,full of rubbish.

Actually, if you didn't know what it was, a full bin bag can look quite smart. Elegant, even, especially if well-secured with integral plastic ribbons which run round the upper opening and can be fastened into an artistic bow. (Yes, I've done that. I take pride in the way I tie my bin bags up. My aim is functional, with flair.)

Imagine how a bin-bag would talk if it was to be opened up.
"Oh, no thanks, I don't feel like sharing....Yes, I know all this rubbish inside needs to be sorted out, but I'm quite happy as I am. Cosy, you know what I mean? I'm keeping it all together very well, thank you very much, and if you open me up it's going to well...spill everywhere, you know. That wouldn't be very nice, would it? So don't worry, I'm absolutely ALL RIGHT....What? WHAT? You're going to open me up anyway? I didn't give you permission to do that. I didn't...ow! OW! That hurt!...Your fingernails scratched, you know. What do you mean, you were untying me carefully? It didn't feel like it, I can tell you.... Well, yes, that is a point. You could have just taken a sharp knife to me and cut me open. I suppose that WOULD have been more painful. Possibly. Anyway, now you have me open so I hope you're satisfied. What? Take the rubbish out to have a look at it? I don't think so... What do you mean I haven't any choice? Oh noooo....."

The bag is opened up, its filthy contents exposed for all to see and examine. Then the work begins as the rubbish is extracted and sorted.

The food scraps - once perfect apples or bananas, peas or carrots,now rotting and degenerate - are all composted, providing, eventually, a fertile environment for new plant growth. The plastic bottles and cartons are melted down and formed into colourful swirling plastic board, still smelling fragrantly of fabric conditioner or dish washing liquid. The paper is pulped and turned into a variety of other papers: printing paper for books, newspapers and magazines; writing paper or cards; even toilet tissue. Glass is crushed and remelted to form beautiful objects. Metal is sorted with powerful magnets, crushed, melted, reused. Electronic items are smashed up, distributed into their constituents: even the circuit boards are crushed under pressure, forming a useful board which can be used for all kinds of purposes - even notebook covers.

Rubbish, when recycled, is useful.

Here's a thought: Each of us, a bin-bag full of the rubbish we call sin, is God's treasure.

And God just loves to open us up and take a good look at all that stuff inside. Sometimes we are opened up so gently - our 'strings' so lovingly and carefully untied - that we barely notice, until someone comments on the 'rubbish' - the sin - they see. Sometimes tragedy, trauma or brokenness make us feel as if we have been forced open and turned inside out. It does, indeed, feel as if a sharp knife has been taken to our very souls.

God doesn't open us up so that others can gloat over how degenerate we have become. Nor does He content himself with a cursory examination and a quick judgement before he moves on to another 'victim. No, he lovingly deals with our rubbish. He sorts out what needs to be crushed, before it can be reformed into something beautiful and useful; or what needs to be transformed, like the composting of green waste, so that He can grow good things and produce fruit. Paper is pulped, squeezed and flattened before it is made: we need to let God do that to our faults, our failings, our broken relationships, our sin... We need to let all the rubbish in us be recycled.

Some of the stuff we have thrown away isn't rubbish at all: it just needs a good clean, or a rub of polish, to restore it to newness. We need to be careful of what we deem only good enough to throw away - it is God who put it in us in the first place, and if He thought it good, it must be. Remember the parable of the wasted talents? Food for thought, a timely warning perhaps?

God is the Great Recycler. Don't be as ridiculous as a bin bag, arguing about what rubbish should be dealt with and what shouldn't. God has a green plan for it all.

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