Rev. Christy Thomas: What some see as a ‘waste’ oftentimes is anything but

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What a waste. Twice a year, a large team of people head to the Texas Youth Correctional facility in Corsicana. There they lose three days and spend a huge amount of money feeding, caring for, speaking with and offering grace and love to some of the incorrigible adolescent males incarcerated there. 

Many of those troubled kids will be transferred straight to an adult correctional facility when they turn 18. In the meantime, they are there for a reason. Someone, or lots of someones, reached a point where they’d said, “No more. Lock them up. Get them off the streets. Too much trouble.”

More waste. Once a month, part of this team spends another long day in Corsicana for a “reunion.” They converse, pray, read the Bible, offer a smile and perhaps a decent meal or snacks. 

Why bother? Those boys will never amount to anything. Lost boys. Lost time. Lost money.

Sunday morning, one of the team asked to come to the pulpit for an unscheduled announcement. More time wasted from perfectly choreographed worship and my oh-so-carefully prepared sermon!

“It was awesome!” she said, smiling at me. A few weeks ago, I’d given a message on the meaning of the word “awe” and how we have so cheapened the word “awesome” that it has lost impact.

“Yes, awesome. Yesterday, 10 of these boys opened their hearts to Jesus and were baptized. And each time one got dunked, the entire room broke out in cheers.”

By the time she’d finished, those worshiping with us were in tears.

Then I began my message, expounding on the story of a woman who poured out her entire life’s savings, a bottle of expensive perfume, upon Jesus’ feet. She wasted everything she had on this fruitless gesture of love. 

A waste. There are four versions of this story in the gospels. After each one, we see a reaction: plans for betrayal, plans for murder, heavy criticism.

We don’t like waste.

“Quit wasting time,” we admonish our children and ourselves. “Don’t waste your money” we cry out on crazy acts of generosity. “Be careful of resources — we’re going to run out!”

No time for daydreams, meanderings, dawdlings, the mystery of worship, the acts of charity on the undeserving. Every minute, every dollar, must show productivity.

We echo the witness to that poured out bottle of perfume who snarled, “How ridiculous. That perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. What a waste.”

Yes, by all means, let us be efficient, nonwasteful. Let us eliminate anything that seems aimless or excessive, not functional.

Here are a few ideas. First, get rid of all fashion designers. How seriously wasteful to continually come up with new ideas for colors and hemlines and cuts! It would be ever so much more efficient to put us all into shapeless and formless gray sacking.

How about musical instruments? Eighty-eight keys on a piano keyboard! And electronic pianos and organs have multiple keyboards! Wasteful. Just eight keys should be plenty — after all, they just keep repeating themselves. Think of all the time and space savings there!

As for art … how many colors and different mediums do we need? What’s with these palettes that contain hundreds of colors and different shadings? Wasteful. Twenty four are plenty — one good-sized box of waxed colors should be enough for any artist.

As for the love of God — good grief! Look how indiscriminately it is spread around! 

If one is to believe some of the stories written about this strange phenomenon, some of the most degraded and undeserving people ever born have been graced with forgiving love. 

Pure waste.

Oh yes, let us be efficient and effective. And waste nothing. And very possibly miss out on the mystery of a wasteful God, spilling over with wasteful grace, lost on an ungrateful people, and still never-ending.

THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at christy@krumumc.org .

 


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