At the back corner of our church property you will find a small, fenced-in area with a sign that reads "Cans for Christ." It is a place where people can drop off their aluminum cans for recycling.
The beauty of recycling aluminum is that the aluminum can be melted down and reused over and over again. It can be a coke* can today or an airplane tomorrow. (Not all by itself, you understand). Or it can be melted down and end up on a bicycle, a computer, a car, a boat, or a house (as a gutter, wiring, or siding).
Take a journey with me for a moment. Let's be an RC Cola can. An RC Cola can is a thing of beauty. You'll not find a more beautiful color of blue than the blue on an RC Cola can. I can hear some of you now: "Why RC?" This is a devotional article, not a business meeting. I'm writing this and I like RC Cola. You Dr. Pepper people just back off! (Insert smiley face here).
So, we're an RC Cola can. We're shipped to a convenience store near Lake Fork, Texas. A tall, lanky preacher from a church up the road stops at the convenience store, opens the refrigerator door, picks us up, purchases us, and takes us back to his truck.
There he pops the top and we pour the refreshing content of our can down his throat. When he gets to the bottom, we're empty. Our usefulness appears to be completed. At first, he tosses us into a Subway bag along with the trash from his recent lunch. We're done! We're trash! We're doomed to life in a landfill next to a smelly diaper!
But then he retrieves us from the bag, pulls up to a small, fenced-in area, and tosses us into an apparent graveyard of empty cans. We look around and there are cans of every nationality and race scattered all around us. The generic cans are there. Apparently, Baptists buy the cheap stuff.
But the big dogs are there, too. You know, the popular ones with all the nice theme songs and commercials. A few energy drink cans are also laying around. They look tired. And don't look now, but there are a few beer cans, too. Some Presbyterians must be sneaking onto the Baptist parking lot at night to drop off their cans. Or maybe one of the Sunday school classes had a fish fry and needed the beer for batter (wink, wink).
Eventually, someone loads us and all the other cans into a truck and we are delivered to a recycling center. There we go through a painful process. We are cut up into tiny pieces, sprayed with chemicals, crushed, melted, beaten, molded, and remade into a flat panel. We're not sure what we are now. We wind up at a manufacturing plant that makes airplanes and we are riveted onto the wing of a beautiful, massive airplane.
We are no longer a single can quickly consumed. We are now a part of something bigger. Now, we soar high above every convenience store, grocery store, coke* machine, beverage truck, and warehouse. A flight from DFW takes us right over Lake Fork. We find the church, the parking lot, and the tiny fence where we once laid. It wasn't a graveyard after all.
On the count of three, I'm going to snap my fingers and we are no longer the aluminum can/airplane. One, two, three. SNAP.
The little fence is a lot like the buildings just to the east of it. People enter as individuals who feel that their lives have been spent and tossed onto the landfill of broken dreams. But God uses empty containers. We are called upon to die to ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Him. Our old nature is melted down. Our old life is removed like dross. We are made into something new and beautiful.
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).
"Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17, CEV).
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles..." (Isaiah 40:31).
*Generic word in the South for all carbonated beverages...also know as "pop" or "soda" by my friends up North. We know it isn't politically correct and we are comfortable with that.