With the rare exception, churches do not know how to throw things away. Of course, I don’t yet know anything about Calvary in this regard; this is just my experience to date (stirred by my current context of packing). For the most part, we are hoarders; we pack things away in our attics, basements, garages, and closets in the delusion that, “We might need this someday.”
Take for example, the slow cooker I personally threw away earlier this year. A remarkable woman in the church had managed to put together a church clean-up day without causing a church-split, so I used the opportunity to get rid of the slow cooker that had been staring at me for about four years. Another pillar of the church tried to stop me, but I would have none of it. Its time had come.
For years this cooker had sat useless in the corner of the kitchen, seemingly begging me to put it out of its misery. The cooker had long ago lost its power cord and I was done looking at it: without a power source, it was more of a planter than a cooker. There are spiritual analogies in that alone, but my point is that we kept this useless cooker in the ridiculous hope that the cord would one day be found or – even more unlikely – somehow replaced.
Now as silly as our hoarding behavior may be, there are good reasons for why the church should be reluctant to simply throw stuff away. First of all, in some ways the church is where we keep our faith. Sure, when we’re doing it right, our faith is something we take with us at all times and everywhere we go. But where do we go when we don’t have a faith of our own or our faith becomes misplaced or our faith becomes too heavy for us to carry on our own? We go to church. The church is where we keep the symbols of our faith, it is where we are reminded of the saving work of God on our behalf, and it’s where we keep the people we’ve entrusted to hold on to our faith “just in case.”
But even more than that, in the end the church is really about people. Following Christ’s example, we are infinitely more interested in saving people than slow cookers; but you can see how the saving of a slow cooker has parallels to the saving of people. Christ had no intention of letting any person “just get thrown away.” When someone begins to seem less than useful, how ridiculous would it be if we put them on the curb? No, at best we hold out hope that they can and will be restored to usefulness or at least we appreciate what they have done for the Kingdom and let them have a rest.
Which brings me back to the slow cooker that I threw away because it had no purpose because it had no cord; the slow cooker I was asked specifically not to throw away because of the vain and misplaced hope that the cord could be found or replaced. Well of course I found that stupid cord a couple of weeks later. I found that stupid cord and I have vowed to keep with me always as a continual reminder. I keep it, not as a lesson on how I shouldn’t throw things away, but as a lesson on why the church should throw things (and never people) away only reluctantly. As annoying as I may personally find our senseless hoarding to be, it does say some wonderful things about us.
May our gracious Savior renew in us that blessed hoarding spirit for the people of this world.