A Glimpse of Grace in a Garbage Can

Each Tuesday evening I roll our large plastic garbage can out to the curb to be picked up early Wednesday morning by a sanitation crew.  It is something that I don’t look forward to doing and occasionally I forget to do it. This usually results in a problem by the time the next “garbage day” rolls around, especially if I forget the week before a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas! Sometimes the can is so close to overflowing that I can barely close the lid. At other times there may be only a couple of tall kitchen bags of garbage in the bottom of the can. During the hot months of July and August I am careful when I open the lid to add more garbage. The putrid smell can literally take your breath away, especially if diapers are involved!
    One winter evening, as I struggled through three foot snow drifts to move the can from the back of the back door to the curb, I got to thinking about what my religious tradition calls “The Confession of Sin.” It is a time  set aside in our weekly worship service when we reflect upon the brokenness of our lives. and the world around us.  During a time of silent prayer I remember the promise that I had good intentions of keeping, but simply didn’t,  the unkind word spoken, the email that I wish I hadn’t sent, moments of callousness, “compassion fatigue”–the guilt of not being willing to give any more of myself. After the time of this silent reflection, I join my fellow worshipers in a more formal prayer of confession of sin. This time the prayer is for the brokenness of the world and the part that we play in that brokenness, no matter how small that part may be.  After the Confession, comes a word of grace, the Assurance of Pardon. It always ends with the words, “Believe the good news of the Gospel, in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”
    This confession of sin, when it comes from the heart, leads to a moment of grace. It allows us to unload all of the garbage of our lives, all of the stink and rot, and to place it on the “curb” for God to pick up and carry away. At these times, confession truly is “good for the soul.”
    Years ago I read a sermon entitled “My Heart, Christ’s Home”. Delivered by the Rev. Robert Boyd Munger at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkley a generation and a half ago, over the years it has been widely distributed around the world. The sermon is an allegorical story of how when one person invited Christ into his home of his heart a slow transformation that took place one day at a time.  In the closing scene of the allegory, the author tells of smelling a strong pungent rotten oder coming from a hidden closet conveniently tucked away in a forgotten part of the house. It was the one place that he did not want Christ to go for it contained all of his secrets, all of those things that the person was ashamed of. They may have been locked away but they were far from forgotten. Jesus looked at the man and understood.  He simply asked for the key to this final door of the man’s heart. He would clean this mess Himself. 
    We need to take out the garbage of our lives at least once a week, whether we want to or not. This is especially true in our spiritual lives. No doubt, we will produce more garbage before our time here is done but that doesn’t mean that we have to let it accumulate around us like a hoarder on some television show. There is Someone who will help us take our garbage to the curb,. All we have to do is give Him the key.


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