So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”
For over two years I have tried diligently to follow the principles of The Compact, a voluntary agreement among individuals to avoid making new purchases, “to go beyond recycling, and to reduce clutter and waste in one’s home, and to simplify our lives.” This may sound like a perfectly dreadful existence to some people, but I have found it to be very freeing and energizing.
The epistle and Gospel readings for this week reminded me of the principles of The Compact and how they stand in opposition to our consumer, throw-away culture. In what many would designate for the trash can or the secondhand store, a Compactor will see great potential and new purpose. The Compactor will polish an item, mend a ripped seam, repurpose it, and restore it – in short, making it a renewed creation.
Jesus would have fit right in as a member of The Compact. In fact he was compacting before compacting was cool. He saw new life and potential in people that first century society had relegated to the rubbish heap. He consorted with sinners and women and those who were unclean in the eyes of the elite and “religious.” Jesus saw value and worth in all people; he knew the truth that God created everything good. Of course quite predictably, he encountered resistance from members of polite society. So Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son to the folks who are complaining about his “prodigal love” and questionable hospitality practices.
This parable is one of the most popular and beloved stories found in Scripture. Teenagers tend to like the story because of its redemptive factor, that the one who makes mistakes is loved and welcomed anyway. Adults find situation compelling because the father steps outside expected and traditional social roles and boundaries to bring restoration and hope to a loved one. In fact, readers/hearers can locate themselves in any of the characters, as the emotions and basic situation are universal.
We prefer to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the son who is welcomed without question or shame back into the family fold, but often we behave with the jealousy and indignation of the proper, rule-following older son. Our grace is mean; our tolerance for renewal low. After all we’re human; we’re not perfect, and we are in the process of being renewed whether we realize it or not.
That’s right. God doesn’t unceremoniously bag us up and send us off to the land of misfit toys. God looks at us through eyes that see the potential of what we can be and what we are created to be. God molds, shapes, and guides us through our life experiences–through our joys, our pains, our fears. We need not fear being discarded, abandoned, or destroyed. By turning our faces toward the light of Christ we become new creations. Notice the wording in the NRSV for 2 Corinthians 5:17b: “…everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”
Yes, through Christ’s love and grace, the tarnish and rust that pollutes our lives and hides our true nature is removed. We become as good as new–better in fact–repurposed for the reign of God here on earth, renewed and restored to be bearers of the good news to others. Prepare the celebration; Easter is on the horizon. Thanks be to God.