April 14, 2002: Recycled for Glory

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we are empty vessels made of frail clay. But You have come to fill us up with heavenly forgiveness. You have arisen from the grave in order to buy us back from the emptiness of sin. Yes, You have confronted us via Your Holy Word to make us into new creations. Because of all that we possess something the world knows nothing about-an eternal purpose, an eternal mindset, all of which makes what we do and say eternally valuable to You and to all we meet. May we always live such truth and glory in it. Amen

TEXT: I Peter 1: 17-21

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

If only this empty bottle of “Schweppes Ginger Ale” could talk! Think of what it has seen, where it has gone, and the conversations it has heard. It would probably start out by telling you how it was “born” in a plastics factory-coming out of the mold all shiny, new, and ready to fulfill its purpose in life. Then it was off to the bottling plant in which it was filled with ginger ale and had a label slapped upon it. No doubt, if this bottle could talk it would recount with great pride being carted off in a truck and being placed upon a grocery store shelf. Why would it find such things exciting? Simply because its purpose in life was to please some shopper and quench their thirst. How it must have longed to be plucked from the shelf. How it must have had its hopes dashed when those shopper chose “Pepsi” or “Coca-Cola” instead. But, then one day a person walked by, spied it, and placed it into their cart. O, an adventure! A new trip! From there it went to the check-out line, the car trunk, and ended up here at church. After cooling its heels in the frig for a week or two, one Sunday morning someone reached in a grabbed it. They twisted off its top and this bottle gave an audible sigh of relief. It contentedly glugged, glugged in a cup. Then, all too soon, it was empty. Its purpose in life had been fulfilled. It had nothing left to offer except the 5 cents that Massachusetts pays for its redemption. And here it sits today waiting to be recycled and turned into packing material.

If this empty bottle could talk, what do you think it would chose for its future-being turned into ignominious bubble wrap, going to the landfill and meeting a dirty end, or the glory of having the opportunity to make some thirsty soul happy once again? I ask you this, because this bottle stands spiritually for each of you. I don’t know about you, but if it was me, I’d really like being:


When we hear the word “redemption” today it usually refers either to buying back a hocked item at a pawn shop or shoving empty bottles into a crusher at the local store and getting back a handful of nickels. In both cases something is bought back for a price. In the church we use the word redemption, too. And in that Godly context we are the ones being “bought back” from sin, death, and Satan’s power. The price of this spiritual buy-back was the blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ!

Listen to St. Peter again: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold (think nickels) that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

You and I are God’s recycle project. We humans were created for glory. We were created to show forth God’s goodness, His love, and His rich heart. When He created human beings God made them perfect. He filled them (in the form of Adam and Eve) with perfect joy. They had the ability to live a harmonious life. They had the ability to never experience pain, suffering, anger, doubt, or shame. But then temptation came and our first parents threw it all away. They poured themselves out on the ground. They emptied their hearts of Godly goodness because they thought Satan had something better to take its place. Now came guilt. Now came sadness. Now came pain. Now came death, oblivion, the filth of hell’s dump. We’re told that God judges all people impartially. Just as no plastic soda bottle can do anything to get us to buy it, so we can do nothing to force God to pluck us from the landfill of pain which is our life here and now. We cannot recapture the purpose for which we were created. We cannot recapture such uninhibited joy. But God has and God does-in Christ. Yes, “He redeemed you from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers.”


I used to faithfully keep the redeemable bottles separate from all the rest. I used to faithfully lug them back to the store when the recycle bin started to overflow in my garage. Then when Burlington began a recycle program with bins and curbside pick-up I quit. The hassle of hauling them to the store isn’t worth those few nickels to me. My time and energy are worth more than a few cents each week. My guess is that it is the same for many of you, too.

But, that’s not how God views us-thankfully! He has more patience than I do. He has compassion for lost sinners and wayward children. He planned our redemption in Christ and then carried it out with Jesus’ life, death on the cross for us, and His resurrection to a new life from the grave. Our redemption cost God the death of His Son. It cost Him blood, Christ’s blood. Yes, if you ever doubt God’s compassion for you-look to the cross and see Him dying there in your place.

“He, Christ, was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

Our redemption has given birth to faith via the Spirit’s power. God has taken our empty lives and filled them once more with eternal love, eternal joy, with an eternal purpose which is: we can make Him glad through our praise and change the world by pouring out upon others the life-changing forgiveness which He has filled us with. And lest you worry whether or not you’ll run dry and be worthless to Him, He keeps topping us off each day and each week via our baptism, communion, and our weekly dose of His forgiveness for all our sins which is handed out in church via the absolution. Yes, His well of grace will never run dry!

You and I have been recycled for glory. So let’s continue to act like it! This “Schweppes” bottle doesn’t have that choice. But we do. Amen