As I prayed with today’s scripture texts, I was struck by the contrast between the reading from 2 Samuel and the Gospel text from John in light of this issue of disposability. We hear the story in 2 Samuel about King David and his indiscretion with Bathsheba resulting in her pregnancy. David cleverly devises several ways to cover this pregnancy up; however, when all else fails, Uriah the Hittite becomes the one who is expendable in order that David’s sin might be covered up. In the world of humanity, there seems to be an inherent disposability on the part of some so that privilege can be maintained by others.
In contrast, we hear in the Gospel that nothing is disposable. When the crowds had eaten their fill of bread and fish, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” I personally like the Greek root which is translated “lost” – it also means “perish” or “destroy.” It could be rendered, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may perish.” The only other time this word for “perish” or “lost” shows up in John, it is in the 17th Chapter where, on the night before Jesus is executed, he prays for his disciples saying: “While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” It is clear from Jesus’ prayer that it is not God’s intention that any of us should lost because God does not do waste in the kingdom.
While humans often find ways to make things and people disposable, God is finding ways to redeem and make whole those very same things. In fact, God seems to find use for the very things we really want to dispose of! Each of us has fragments in our lives that, if we are totally honest, we’d really prefer to dispose of – the broken, weak, dis-eased parts of us we all have. A few weeks ago, Paul talked about this very thing when he referenced the “thorn” in his flesh that he prayed God would remove. God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power is made perfect in weakness.” Today, Jesus says, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” God longs to gather up our fragments: our wounds; our dis-eases of body, mind and spirit; the past we regret and wish we could erase; the present messes in our lives; the anxieties over the future. Christ wants to make sure all of that is gathered so that nothing may perish but instead be redeemed, resurrected, and restored.
It is into this promise and this hope that we baptize our brother Daegan Alexander this very day. Daegan, we are making a very audacious claim as we baptize you a few minutes from now. That claim is that all the fragments of your old life have been gathered up in the death of Christ and they are drowned in the waters of baptism. Christ has gathered up the fragments of who you are, all those things you like and don’t like, and they have been redeemed by his death on the cross. Your old understanding of yourself and the world will be drowned in these waters and you will be raised up into a new life of grace where the fragments of your life (all of it: the good, the bad and the ugly) will take on a new meaning shaped by the cross of Christ and his resurrection. As you are baptized and grow into this new life of grace, you will find that nothing, absolutely nothing, is disposable: not things, not people, not God, and not even the parts of you that you’d prefer be disposable. You see, nothing is wasted – God wants to redeem all of you and all of us for the sake of the kingdom. And this is the core of the good news of God in Jesus Christ.
As a baptized child of God, you are being commissioned (as each of us has been commissioned) to spread this good news of redemption by both your words and your deeds. Now that may sound simple, but you’d be amazed at how difficult it is for people to believe it … to trust that it is true. We often feel we have to earn this salvation (which we can’t) or that we are not worthy of it (and no, we aren’t worthy of it because of anything in ourselves but because God has made us worthy through Christ to receive it). Trusting that God doesn’t “do waste” and that nothing in our lives is beyond redemption is a lifelong task for Christians. But this is what God in Christ has done for us and in it God has assured us that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. This is our hope and promise … and it becomes yours today too, Daegan.