Word of the Week

New Year Shredding

I did something unusual, I think, in worship yesterday. I included a paper shredder as part of our liturgy.

I was set to preach on the prologue to the book of John-- that great passage of scripture that talks about the in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . .

It seemed to me to be a passage that spoke of God's abundant provisions from beginning to be our new beginnings as we all face the start to a new calendar year. I was particularly drawn to the idea that in Christ we are given "grace upon grace" as everything we need.

Of course, I, personally wanted to first reject such a claim as my sermon theme for the day. It sounded too cheesy Christian too me . . . the same old, same old religious talk that "In Jesus you have everything you need." But as I worked through it more and more in my mind, I came to see a picture of a God who wanted to show us so desperately through the life of Jesus that the stories we form our lives around like "You are not enough" "You don't have what it takes" "You have failed too many times to try that" are just useless if we call ourselves Christ followers. For really what John 1 might desire to teach us is that in Christ we are given a completely different story-- a story that is filled with abundant blessings.

I don’t know if you are like me, but when I hear a preacher talking about “abundant blessings of God” I really want to shut down and stop reading or listening. Images of famous charismatic television evangelists pop up in my head. I think of the scandals of what has happened in the name of God to bring about wealth to a few at the expense of those who are already poor. I think of lies and damage that has been done to our Christian witness.

But, this is not at all what I was talking about by using the word “abundance." (I was not expecting a big offering yesterday so we can start a tv ministry or anything like that . . . well, not yet). No, I was talking about a radical trust in a God that has a plan larger than you and I could imagine for our individual lives and for the being of this world, trust in a plan that can only come when we get our minds off of our "me centered" lives.

And, what good New Year's news this was . . .

So, as a tangible response to the Word, I proposed that each person present wrote down on an index card provided in their bulletin what were some of the sorrows, frustrations and stresses holding them back in 2010, knowing that no one would see the card except them. Then, I invited everyone to come forward and place their card in the paper shredder I had near the altar as a symbol of laying these things in the hands of God and receiving Christ's gift of new beginnings.

I have to say, I enjoyed the view I got of the process. The intentionally with which folks composed the words on their cards and then brought it forward was a sign of how serious each were about new beginnings. It was a spiritual moment for each of us-- annoying paper shredding noise and all.

Maybe it was just what we all needed yesterday: a reminder of the old truth that in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come! So if you missed worship yesterday or are a part of another faith community somewhere else-- try it at home. Make your list and locate your nearest paper shredder. What you might find is that a new beginning of great portions is just around the corner from you.