Sunday, March 25, 2012

God, the ultimate Upcycler

Jeremiah 31:31-33
John 12:20 -33

There seems to be a resurgence in the practice of Upcycling, this isn’t just a new term for recycling, it is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value, whereas recycling is simply rubbish with purpose.

So whereas recycling requires an item to be destroyed and then reformed into another item, upcycling still retains something of the original in the new item.
Whilst the term “upcycling” may be new to some the theory certainly isn’t. The Make Do and Mend campaign during the war is a prime example of this.

There are four steps involved in Upcycling that you need to be aware of when embarking on such a process. You need:

1.      To be able identify when something is past it Used by date or purpose and recognise that holding onto it is no longer of any benefit.

2.      To be prepared for the inevitable and sometimes difficult death of the old in order for the birth of the new to happen.

3.      To be creative in what the possibilities might be for a future use of something.

4.      To be ready to celebrate, embrace and make the most of new promise that lies before them.

By following these simple steps the possibilities are endless in what you can do and make.

But the possibilities don’t end there. Upcycling isn’t just for objects and things; it can also be applied to each of us and to our relationship with God. We have heard in the reading from Jeremiah, a declaration from the original upcycler himself, God, regarding the change from the old covenant to the new.

In thinking about the key steps:

1.      Identifying when something is no longer working,
a.       The declaration is made that the old covenant has been broken it no longer works whilst God was faithful, God’s people were not;

2.      Be prepared for the death of the old to make way for the new,
a.       Rather than dwell on the covenant being broken, God forgives let’s go of the pain that must have been there and allows space for something new

3.      Think creatively and look to future possibilities
a.       God thinks creatively about the future of the relationship. And what results is a covenant that is focussed on what happens internally rather than externally. Whereas before God took them by the hand and led then out of Egypt, the new covenant is going to be on their hearts and minds. It goes from physical to emotional and mental. It goes from a thing the ark to a person Christ.

4.      Celebrate and make the most of the new possibilities.
a.       What’s the outcome, God will be our God and we will be his people. This should be celebrated.

Just as God let go of the old covenant in order to embrace the new, we also need to look at what in our lives, families, churches, communities can be upcycled.  What is past it’s used by date that we continue to hold onto.

It’s hard to play catch with full hands

Jesus is the new covenant that God can offer because the old covenant was let go.
In John’s passage we hear Jesus share another version of upcycling when he talks about the grain of wheat needing to die in order that it can bear more fruit. Yes Jesus is talking about his impending death but he is also challenging us about what we have that is getting in the way.  

While we are not Christ and therefore our ability to die and be resurrected three days later isn’t quite the same as Christ’s. As followers of Christ we are called to live a life that reflects Christ, the closer we get to Easter the closer we get to the point of new life that is represented through the Easter story.

The illustration that Christ share’s again shows the benefit of letting go. Just as with Upcycling, Christ shows us that by ...

1.      Identifying when something needs to be changed to work better,
a.       The grain of wheat

2.      Being prepared for the death of the old to make way for the new,
a.       Recognise that in order for it to bear fruit it can no longer stay as grain but rather needs to die to become new

3.      Thinking creatively and looking to future possibilities
a.       The possibility of bearing fruit, and being more than currently is capable of being.

4.      Celebrate and make the most of the new possibilities.
a.       The grain of wheat as a result of dying is able to have such a greater impact than it could ever have had if it had stayed a grain.

...we can embark on something new which will result in something greater than anything previously possible

Just as with the new covenant that God is creating, and with the wheat that is producing more than it could ever have before it died we are also called to trust God and allow our lives to by Upcycled through the love and grace of God. We can do this by following the steps of:

1.       Identifying when something is past it
a.       What is it that we are holding on to when on closer more honest inspection we recognise that whilst at one point it was important and useful, that those days have passed? What is it in our lives, our churches and our communities that we need to let go in order that we can receive a new promise from God

2.      Being prepared for the death of the old to make way for the new,
a.       Most things in our own and our shared experiences have left their mark. This can make letting go difficult, but it doesn’t mean that we should continue to hold on out of fear or familiarity. We need to allow ourselves to celebrate what was and end in a way that is healthy, recognising what is too come.

3.      Thinking creatively and looking for the future possibilities
a.       Once we have recognised what we no longer need, we have to think creatively about how we can best use what we have for God. Spend time praying and reflecting on the future possibilities that are out there. Come together as a church or community and place yourself and your resources before God. Our God is a creative God. Once we have let go our hands are free to receive the new possibilities that are all around us. Waiting and listening to God, allowing God space to speak into our lives and our communities, and then having the faith to take the step can be challenging but God always has our back.

4.      Celebrating and making the most of the new possibilities.
a.       Once we know what the new possibilities are we need to celebrate them, grabbing hold and running with the new beginning, praying that God be before, behind, above and below all that we embark on for him.

God is a God of new beginnings, of change and life giving and expanding experiences.

If God let go of the old covenant in order for us to have a new covenant with him, what do we need to let go of, what has to die, in order for us to grab hold of the promises of the new covenant we are offered through Christ. What have we got in our lives that we can upcycle for God?

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