One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That is kind of the hoarder’s motto, isn’t it? As I mentally prepare for our church’s yard sale in September, this seems to be more and more apparent as I begin to gather the things we don’t want anymore and hope that someone out there will find value in what we deem as junk.
This is especially true at our household now, as my wife and I are trying to clean up all the boxes and boxes of kid’s clothes, toys, and miscellaneous trinkets that they’ve amassed from who knows where. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with all the stuff the kids have and what they want to hang on to for some strange reason. Like the other day I found a rock that wasn’t particularly nice or smooth or even clean, but when I asked my son about it, he wanted to keep it. A rock.
And it’s not just with my kids, it’s me too. As I look in my office, and look at all the unread books on my shelves, the unopened toys, and the piles and piles of old minutes and correspondence that really should have just been an email… and I feel almost inundated with all this stuff. But I’ll be damned if I throw any of it away because you never know when I’ll need a promotional letter from an obscure organisation from 2014.
So sometimes it seems like one person’s trash is actually that same exact person’s treasure as well, as at work and at home I have stuff upon stuff of total garbage that I can’t seem to bring myself to ever get rid of. I have some of my workbooks from elementary school, some toy catalogues from high school, and my own collection of little trinkets that don’t make sense to keep. But I still have them and I somehow see some sort of value in them somewhere, to the point that I really can’t see them going anywhere soon.
Along with this saying of one person’s trash, also comes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as we know there is a lot of stuff out there that any regular person would roll their eyes at but to that one who loves that thing, well it is just the most beautiful thing in the world. Take my kids for example, some of you might look at them and be like, ugh, those are your kids? And I’ll respond with I know they’re not perfect, but I’ll take them over your kids any day…
The point of all this is that we can find that value and worth isn’t static. Unless it’s currency, there isn’t a definitive definition of what can or cannot be valuable in an absolute sense. It isn’t consistent across the board. Rather, when it comes to finding the value and worth of something that isn’t currency? Ahhh… it depends. It depends on how you see it, it depends on how much it means to you, it depends on how much you want it. It just depends.
So it would be foolish to just blanket deny that something has value. I mean, it might not have value to you but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Just because we see something as useless doesn’t mean that it could never be used. Just because we see something as trash, it doesn’t mean it can’t be someone else’s treasure. Just because it is just a random rock from who knows where, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some sort of worth to someone, namely my kid.
I keep thinking about this as I read and re-read today’s gospel lesson. Jesus is still with those 5000 that he fed a couple weeks ago now, except for them it’s only been a matter of hours. They’re fresh from being hungry again after having eaten the bread and fish, and Jesus was just like all, “hey guys… it’s me… the bread of life… n’ stuff.”
And instead of the people getting excited about Jesus being the actual guy who will save them, they get annoyed and were like “pfft, this guy thinks he’s going to save us?” and “bah, that’s just Jesus, I was in the 5th grade with that guy, he always had good lunches but he’s no saviour” and “hey isn’t this guy the son of Joseph? Does that make Joseph the bread maker of life? Lol” and so forth. They didn’t see value in this guy they knew all their lives, I mean apart from him just feeding everyone very generously and them wanting to make him king and then literally talking a stroll over the water, there isn’t anything special about him. He’s just a regular dude like any other regular dude. It’s just Jesus.
Nothing special. Nothing to gawk at. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just Jesus.
Of course, we reading this very much in hindsight are thinking “is you all crazy? This is JESUS. He’s going to do a bunch more miracles, many more signs, teach you a lot of cool stuff, and then save you once and for all. He isn’t ordinary, he is EXTRAORDINARY.” If only we can reach into the pages of scripture and grab these people by the cuff of their shirts and just shake sense into them. I mean, you see who you’re rejecting here? You see who you’re disrespecting? Who you are just tossing out like yesterday’s trash? Can you just open your eyes and see past yourselves for once?
Well… can we?
Wait, we’re not talking about us here, are we? Aren’t we still in the middle of pointing our fingers at these ancient Israelites? I mean, we’re not doing anything wrong, we’re not the ones rejecting Jesus here. We see value in that guy.
Do we though? Sure, we might see “value” in Jesus, but how much do we trust in that value? How much do we believe it to be true? How much faith do we put into that and allow it to inform the other parts of our lives?
Like… say… our own value and self-worth? If we believe Jesus to be true, then shouldn’t we see that we have value and we have gifts and we can be used for God’s ministry? Or maybe the value and worth of others? I mean if we believe that Jesus is the bread of life that he claims to be, and that all people who trust him share in that value as well, shouldn’t we see that in our Christian brothers and sisters? Even if they worship differently from us, or pray differently from us, or even see the world differently from us? Or even in the value of this world? If we believe that Jesus loves us and all things, don’t you think we should be taking care of this planet a lot better than we have been? Don’t you think we should be caring for others, for ourselves, and seeing what it is that God loves about all of us?
See, the people back in the time of these readings didn’t see Jesus for his true value and worth, but let’s not make that same mistake in others, in ourselves, in the things that just seem like regular everyday things. For God takes what is normal and ordinary and makes them valuable and extraordinary.
I mean, truth be told Jesus is a pretty regular dude. Born to a weathered carpenter and an underaged mom, which was normal at the time. Hung out with other regular dudes from different walks of life, which was kind of normal back then. Was even named Jesus which was a totally normal, average and very very common name. Everything about Jesus just screamed ordinary, maybe even mundane.
But we know that he wasn’t, that as God’s anointed only Son, Jesus truly was the bread of life that feeds and nourishes us all. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reaches out his hands of grace and mercy and welcomes us all in. Jesus, the Messiah, opens up his arms of love and declares us as God’s beloved children.
See, that value and worth that we see in Jesus is in us. That power of the Spirit that Jesus has is given to us as well. That seemingly ordinary life made extraordinary by God is how our lives work, in that while we might think that we are just average, like how maybe the ancient Israelites might have thought that they were just average, like how many people out there fail to believe in themselves and think themselves as just average, God lifts us up, blesses us with gifts, and anoints us for worship, service, and ministry.
That we, as a community of God, the body of Christ, citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, we might go forth into the world as heralds of the gospel, and bearers of peace, as proclaimers of God’s holy Word.
But you might think, whoa hold on now, I can’t do that stuff, that’s your job. True, I might have more training in this area for this specific purpose, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. In fact, it means you can. As backwards as it sounds, that is exactly the message of the gospel, that we, as underqualified or untrained or unsuitable we might think we are to be God’s messengers, are exactly what God uses as messengers.
Because that is what God does. God looks at the ordinary, the normal, the easily understandable and maybe even predictable, and brings out the extraordinary, the unique, the surprising goodness that is within. All the major characters of God’s story of the bible had a very ordinary, non-spectacular origin story. But as non-spectacular as they started off, through God they have affected all of history and are remembered for their contribution to our own faith stories.
Moses, Samuel, King David, and even Jesus, all uninteresting beginnings and somewhat checked pasts. But, all with an amazing message of God’s love, grace, and peace. And that is what it is all about. God doesn’t manifest only in grand, the beautiful, and the over-the-top spectacles, but if we learned anything from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, God is found also, and perhaps more so, in the ordinary, the regular, the humble wooden cup hiding behind the attention-grabbing gold and flashing jewels.
See, you are worthy. You have value. For you have been given a gift of a message of grace. And while we might find it hard to believe that we could make a difference in the life of another, God says different in that God has chosen you, lifted you up, and redeemed you for every good thing.
In this time after Pentecost, may we see the extraordinary in the ordinary as we look at the world through God’s eyes of love, grace, and peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.