Sermon on John 1:29-42
January 20, 2008
The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
There is a waste management problem in our world. Have you heard about the trash crisis in Naples, Italy? They have had no trash collection since December 21st of last year. There is a political problem between the mafia and the local government. And, since there is no trash collection, there are thousands of bags of trash piled up on the streets. Cars have been outlawed and only motorcycles are allowed to navigate the increasingly narrow streets there. Can you imagine strolling around through a beautiful city in Italy and wafting in the aroma of spaghetti pomodoro and homemade pesto sauce along with the fumes of rotting trash and decomposing garbage?
I got a little bit worried because as I was listening to this news story on public radio I was on my way to the dump. And when I pulled up at the dump, there was this sign out at the front that said, “Dump is Full. Come back later.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the local mafia hadn’t gotten upset at the town council and stopped all garbage disposal in the town.
Ever since I moved to Badin and discovered the joys of taking my own trash to the dump, I’ve developed a certain appreciation that I never had before for the garbage collector and the mailman. I will never wheel out a trash can to the curb again without being thankful. The years before I moved here, I just took the garbage man for granted. He takes away the trash of the world, and though he is paid for his service of collection and removal, it is not a job that comes with much honor or prestige. As the saying goes, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”
In our gospel lesson, we are able to listen in on John the Baptist’s words yet again this week. And, when Jesus passes by, John says to the people there, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” You might be wondering how this declaration that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world relates to trash. We all have some trash in us that is in need of collection and removal-it’s called sin. And Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! In that way, Jesus is a lot like a trash collector, taking our trash, our sins, our faults, our weakness, and our imperfection upon himself.
Our world is becoming so concerned about everything being politically correct. Nursery rhymes aren’t even immune from this. It’s just a matter of time before we lose the word “sin” entirely from our collective vocabularies I’m afraid. Society doesn’t like to acknowledge words like sin and evil. I fear there will come a day when the word sin is translated “misdirected good.” If there’s nothing else we take away from this reading from the holy gospel this morning it’s this-we all sin, and sin terribly, but Jesus takes away that sin. In a way, coming to church is a lot like taking the trash out of our souls.
We went away for a couple days not long ago and we accidentally left a “special” diaper in the trash can. When we got home, every room in house smelled like diaper! You would never think of leaving five bags of trash filled with dirty diapers piled up in your kitchen for a few weeks. So why do we let trash pile up in our souls for so long? Why do we allow our sin to sit around inside our souls and fester and rot and creep it’s way into every room of our souls?
The first thing we need to work on as followers of Jesus is to reduce the trash in our souls and in our lives. Just like we need to work on not having so much trash in our world, we need to work on having less trash in our souls. The second is like it, we need to get rid of that trash, that sin, immediately. But we are unable to get rid of our sin on our own. If we could do it ourselves, then we wouldn’t need the Lamb of God to take it away for us.
The day after the dump here was closed, I went out to my car and opened the door and realized that I hadn’t “come back later” to drop off my trash at the full dump. The odor just about knocked me down! And, as I was driving to the dump that morning, I heard another news story about trash. There is a guy in California named Dave Chameides who made a rather unique new year’s resolution. While some vow to lose weight and go to the gym or to quit smoking, this guy has vowed to throw nothing away all year as a way of doing his part to conserve. Now he’s not going to just let bags of trash pile up in his house. Instead, he’s going to try to recycle stuff and compost organic waste and that sort of thing. It’s a drastic move to vow to live in such a way that produces virtually no trash. Then again, it was a drastic move for the Lamb of God to take away the world’s sin. The thing that gets me though, is that all we have to do is wheel our sin to the curb, and yet some people would rather fester and keep their spiritual trash to themselves. Our world has a waste management problem-physically and spiritually. And it’s time for us to do something about it. “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.” Amen.