We are God's Treasure!
When I was a boy, I wanted to be a trashman. Little did I know that I would grow up to need a God who was a trashman.
No matter how engrossed I might be in an episode of Get Smart or Gilligan’s Island, my ears never missed the approaching rumble. It crawled its way down the street, one man driving, two other men walking alongside. They hefted garbage cans and spilled their contents into the gaping mouth of the truck.
I would bang through the front door, sprint across the yard, swing open the gate, and stand there gawking and grinning as my favorite parade passed by. The muscled men were friendly. They had my dream job. A big, loud truck. All day in the sun and street.
I was a boy. But when I became a man, I wanted to be just like them.
I would be a trashman!
Over the course of the next few decades, my vocational aspirations shifted. For several years I wanted nothing more than to be a policeman just like my dad. He later started a roofing company. I ended up going to college and taking over the family business, hammering shingles onto roofs; then preaching in pulpits.
I was a boy once, and when I became a man, I became many things, but never a trashman. Perhaps I should have gone with my first instinct. For I know a thing or two about trash. About throwing things away. About being thrown away. Even about recycling trash.
Isn’t it odd, the power of names? I sit down at a meal, with a white napkin beside my plate. It’s welcome on my table. I pick it up and wipe my mouth with it. It is still a napkin, my napkin. I have no qualms about putting it back beside my plate of food, or on my lap, or on my mouth.
But when I’m finished with it, I throw it away. The napkin becomes trash. And once it becomes trash, I wouldn’t dream of retrieving it from the dumpster and putting it back on my table, or wiping my mouth with it. It is no longer anything but trash to me.
The trash can is the great equalizer. What falls into it becomes what it is. It is no longer a napkin or any other individualized, named item. It is simply trash.
A Pastor friend told me recently that he feels like he's been thrown away. He used to serve a church. He used to be needed, wanted, honored. But now he's unwanted, unneeded, ignored. He feels like nothing but trash.
I can remember a certain family in my home town. Dogs were given greater honor than these people. They were uneducated, dirty, poor. "That family," I was told so many times, "is nothing but white trash."
We categorize people by their weaknesses, failures, addictions, deprivations, sentences. We keep various, labeled trash cans around for the sake of convenience. In them we throw people away.
Jesus can transform a dumpster into an altar of re-creation.
And sometimes we are thrown away. Old friends no longer answer our phone calls. The church where we once worshiped becomes frigid. Sometimes even our families shame us, shun us, trash us from their lives.
In this world, in this life, there's always a season spent on vacant side street far from meaning and purpose. Amongst the debris that others have thrown away.
Thank God that we have a Lord who walks the barren and vacant side streets of forgotten neighborhoods. He turns off Main Street, with its shiny shops and smiling people to haunt the small side streets where the trashed people live hopeless lives.
And our God, he’s not afraid of trash. What others have thrown away, he loves. He is a Lord of redemption, of recycling, of reclaiming. He recycles lives that we have trashed, that others have trashed. Jesus can transform a dumpster into an altar of re-creation.
He strolls through the small side streets of this world. He picks up the discarded remains of people like us. He washes us, clothes us, feeds us, embraces and kisses us. He even leads us home and adopts us into his family as heirs of the fullness of his grace.
There is no trash at the foot of the cross.
When I was a boy, I wanted to be a trashman. Little did I know that I would grow up to need a God who was a trashman. He unhesitatingly stooped down, retrieved me from the dumpster, and treated me not as an object to be despised but as a son to be loved.
And so he does for all of us. To others, even to ourselves, we may be seem like trash, but to the God of love, we are His treasure.
What the world perceives as trash is truly a Christ’s blood washed Saint kneeling at the foot of the Cross.
A brother in Christ,
Pastor Tom Henkes
Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church
331 South Lake Powell Blvd.
Page, AZ 86040
Rev. Tom Henkes is Pastor to Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, Page, AZ. A California native and life-long Lutheran, he attended a Lutheran elementary school, graduated from Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has served two congregations in the Phoenix area.
Crystal River of Life - Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5