Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 5:11-21
Our Scripture passage for this week contains (what I think) is one of the most well known Scripture verses across Christendom – So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: see everything old has passed; see, everything has become new! (II Cor 5:17)
In this verse I am most captivated by the implied relationship between that which is old and that which is new – the implication being that one cannot be wholly new if one is still firmly grasping that which is old.
In my first appointment there were many ladies in the church that kept monthly “ditch” bags. For each day in any particular month these women would go through their homes and place an item in the “ditch” bag. If during the course of the month they did not have a reason to retrieve a particular item, then they ditched it!
When I asked how they felt about all their “ditching” many were overwhelmed and relieved. Overwhelmed – because they had so much stuff to “ditch” they continued the process for years at a time. Relieved – because their firm grasp on old things loosened to the relief of release, which enabled them to receive something new.
What newness were these ladies receiving?
- The newness of simplicity.
- The newness of doing all they could to order the affairs of (and clean out!) their temporal lives in preparation for their eternal lives. These ladies believed this would be a great and lasting gift for their loved ones.
- The newness of availability – with less stuff to tend to the ladies gained both a healthy perspective on how much time they spent tending to their former items and a greater availability to pursue new interests, strengthen relationships, and apply themselves in the service of the Kingdom.
These ladies focused on releasing the materially old to create space for the new that God would reveal. Following my introduction to the “ditch” bag idea I have adopted my own practice of regular ditching. I’m not quite to the level of an item per day every month, but I am always on the look out for those things that can be given new life beyond my grasp, which in turn gifts me the kind of newness akin to what those sweet church ladies received.
But is ditching only for the physical and material? What about mental ditching? What about purging those ideas, feelings, and memories of hurt, failure, and sin? I have no doubt that Christ can make us new even if we choose to hold a firm grasp on misgivings and shortcomings of old, but why would we want to hold onto them? Why do we hold onto them?
One of my favorite bands is Jars of Clay and they sing a beautiful almost haunting song entitled “Worlds Apart.” The bridge of that song sings,
I look beyond the empty cross forgetting what my life has cost
So wipe away the crimson stains and dull the nails that still remain
So steal my heart and take the pain, take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide. Take the beauty, take my tears.
Take my world apart, take my world apart.
I pray, I pray, I pray take my world apart.
In other words – mental ditching.
In hearing these words sung I am reminded of the incredible power of Christ – that he indeed can take worlds apart – that he indeed can take my world apart and redeem and give me the strength to ditch that physical and mental stuff that holds me hostage in the old thereby withholding me from the joy of the new.
I am in Christ. I am a new creation. I know this knowledge in my head. I celebrate the days when this knowledge sinks immediately into my heart. I confess I still have the days where it takes longer for my heart to feel the assurance my head knows so well. The presence of those “longer” days is evidence that further faith development is needed and in that faith development Christ will take my old world apart and invite me to be a more complete resident of his new and reigning Kingdom.
Prayer: “Hasten the joyful day which shall my sins consume, when old things shall be done away, and all things new become. I want the witness, Lord, that all I do is right, according to thy mind and word, well pleasing in thy sight.”* Amen.
*”O Come and Dwell in Me,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 388.