Deposits with Returns



Pepsi Bottles

Galatians 3:14: Christ paid the price so that the blessing promised to us would come to all the people of the world through Jesus Christ and we would receive the promised Spirit through faith.

I don’t know how you earned money when you were younger for those necessities children must have like candy and toys. I used various means, including taking my parents’ offer to pay me a penny for every dandelion I dug up. Some of you know how hard the clay that passes for soil around here is, so my scheme to get rich by digging dandelions in the hot sun lasted maybe ten minutes and I earned ten cents (I was a slow child).

Then my brother and I tried a Kool-Aid stand, but no one in the neighborhood had any more money than we did, and they were not about to buy something they could make themselves. That business scheme resulted in a total loss, so we went further into the hole.

Then some kids at school told me about the wonders of bottle deposits. They’re still around in some states, and some pay ten cents a bottle, but in case you haven’t heard how the system worked back in the day, when we bought bottled drinks, each drink had two cents added to the price to insure that you would bring the bottle back so it could be reused. When you brought the bottle to the store,  you got your two cents back. You returned the bottles to get a return.

Some people who were apparently wealthy didn’t return their bottles, but left them lying around  or threw them out of the windows of their cars, and if those didn’t break, we would come along towing our red wagon, collect the empties, and haul our take to the grocery store and redeem them. We didn’t make a lot, but more than if we had sat around reading comic books all day. My mother suggested that we save some our hard-earned money, but we scoffed at that idea and spent it before it could “burn a hole in our pockets,” as my mom said, rather disdainfully. I wasn’t until I started painting the interiors of houses in high school that I made enough to matter. And I did save some of it.

The spiritual application, I think, is this. We don’t have to worry about nickeling and diming our way to salvation, to use a phrase. It’s not even worth trying, although some people do, thinking their good deeds are the deposits that they can use to gain eternal life. We of course know as believers that our debt was paid in full at Calvary by the sacrifice of the Redeemer of the world whose Resurrection we celebrate this Sunday and every Sunday. Praise God for the treasures that have been stored up for us in heaven so that we don’t have to try to earn our way in. Amen.



Grazing and Browsing


Sheep Grazing


I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered about the difference between grazing and browsing. I know I have, and so I looked up the two terms and found that browsing applies to the feeding behavior of animals who eat off shrubs and small trees. You might say they’re selective. Grazers, on the other hand, eat what’s on the ground which is generally grass and other short forms of vegetation. Grazers, by their very nature, can eat too much and completely strip an area of vegetation. Sheep will keep eating until they “founder,” and unless someone intervenes (you don’t want to know what they have to do), the sheep will die. I suppose that’s what you might call too much of a good thing.

Grazing and browsing also applies to the behavior of people in bookstores or waiting rooms where there are books or magazines. Browsers are selective, only reading what is of interest to them, while grazers thoroughly read what is written, determined to wring the last bit of information out of the reading. Depending on the material and our mood and the time available, we may be grazers one time and browsers the next. We also may browse through files on our computers, selecting one or several to spend time with, or to graze, if you will.

I think the spiritual sense is this: God has spread a literal and metaphorical feast before us in this life and the next, and we have a basic choice. We can browse God’s truths, and only choose those that are convenient for or palatable to us. Or we can graze what God has given us, and take it in and continue taking it all in, because, unlike the sheep, we cannot have too much of the goodness of God, and the mercy, forgiveness and love of God are without end. Praise God for giving us the choice to graze, and for insuring that we will never run short of all that the Creator has blessed us with. Amen.

The Real Deal

Library at Trinity College

Exodus 20: 6. So says the Lord our God: “I will show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

I don’t know if you are a reader, although I suspect as much because you are in choir and many of you have studied the Bible for years, and you are also intelligent and good-looking. I bring this up because I also don’t know how you prefer to do your reading. Maybe you’re like me and went through a stage where I preferred e-books for their convenience and lower cost. I used them for about ten years, but recently have found them hard to hold (they’re made of plastic, slippery and just plain awkward),  harder and harder to read (that’s on me, not the readers) and reliant on batteries. With an e-reader, I can access thousands of books, but if the battery goes out and I can’t recharge it, it’s like having no book at all. And I don’t want to think about that.

And so, I have gone back to the future and now read paperbacks and the occasional hardback when someone gives me a gift card, and it’s like coming home. I can hold the books easily, read them readily (with no large print—yet), mark my place and, best yet, write in the margins. This devotional came from a note I made in a margin of the book I’m reading now. (It read, “Write about books for devotional,” and here I am.)

I know, I know, e-readers mark the place automatically and it is possible to make notes, but that process is more trouble than it’s worth. And I have to say that having a book sent electronically is not very exciting or satisfying. Becky tells me that the one thing people look forward to the most every day is the delivery of the mail. That applies to “real” books as well. There’s nothing like going out to the bookstore for a change of scenery, choosing a book, paying for it and taking it home. And there’s also excitement in ordering it online and waiting to see if the promised delivery day is accurate. Then there’s the enjoyment of opening the package and finding out that, yes, they did send the right book. Then comes the reading and all the rest, but you already know about that.

It occurs to me that our experience with God is or can be like having the best book in the universe. Just as books can have a real presence in our lives that is important and enriching, so God is the ultimate reality and offers not only an enriched life but also salvation to all who accept Jesus Christ. Jesus said, in John 6:58, speaking of himself as the New Manna, “I am the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The riches and opportunities of the universe are ours because God is the real creator, sustainer and redeemer. May we always remember these qualities, and may we always know that God is real. Amen