My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I had a great group of friends in high school. Not only did we share many of the same interests and activities, we shared a similar sense of humor. It is said that you gather with those who share similar values with you. In other words, you keep company with those people who reinforce your view of the world. Well, if that view was harmless pranks and strange jokes, that certainly was true with me and my friends.
It was a bright day in early summer that found us at that very task with one of my friend’s mom’s, Julie. It was Julie’s birthday and we were teenagers without any substantial goals for the day. So, we decided to spice up Julie’s birthday some. Julie was the owner of a flower shop in our small Montana town and, not surprisingly, an avid gardener. We decided that we would provide her with a gift that suited her hobby well, but was a little bit disruptive.
We headed down to the local feed store and spent a great deal of time finding the worst smelling manure we could find. This ended up being fresh chicken manure. It was rank. So rank. We were delighted. We then took the manure and tied a nice bow around the foul-smelling bag and attached a card wishing Julie a happy birthday. And, then, we silently deposited it on her front steps.
A couple of hours later, much to our dismay, Julie called her son to thank him and his friends for the delightful gift. Delightful? That was the worst bag of anything that we could find! As bored teenagers, we were unaware of its true value. In the dry and nutrient-poor soil in our area, the nutrients in the chicken manure were the very thing that Julie needed for her garden.
So it goes in our lives as well. We often try to forget about the nasty and smelly things that we carry around with us: our sins. Or, if we can’t forget about them, we try to minimize them. But, just like chicken manure and just like the manure in our Gospel reading for this week (Luke 13.1-9), our sins are rich in nutrients for God to help us grow.
When we offer up our sins to God, God has a way of planting grace deep into our lives. When we are honest and open about how we stink and smell, God can enter in and give us potential to grow that we can’t imagine can come from our faults. It is the best gift that comes from our worst parts. Kind of crazy, but that’s how grace works.