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Trash to Gems

Trash to Gems


Have you ever heard of Glass Beach?


Early in the 1900’s, residents of Fort Bragg, California, disposed of their trash by throwing it over a cliff, onto a nearby beach. That was of course before the days of being ecological in our outlook on such things. The result was a beach with huge, disgusting piles of cans, bottles, tableware, and household garbage. Over time, the beach was an embarrassment, seemingly beyond being reclaimed.


However, especially after the practice of dumping trash was ended, an interesting process began. Over the years, wave action on the beach broke up the glass and pottery in the trash and washed the pieces out to sea. There, the pounding surf rolled and tumbled the fragments in the sand on the ocean floor, frosting and smoothing the surfaces, creating a gemlike substance called sea glass, which the sea then deposited back onto the beach. The result was a beautiful scene. The scene is called Glass Beach. Visitors to Glass Beach now stare at the sight in wonder.


What happened to that trash in California can, speaking spiritually, happen to people as well through the reclaiming work of Jesus. In this message, let’s consider three of the many, many Bible examples of that happening. We will also think about other trashy things that might be in us that Jesus can change into beautiful gems.


All the examples we will consider in this message are familiar parts of the New Testament. The first two have to do with women. Both are found in the Gospel of John. The first example is recorded in the first part of chapter 4 of John. The passage features, in addition to Jesus, a woman who one day approached a well outside the Samaritan city of Sychar.


There are many important points that can be made from today’s first passage, but for this message, we will concentrate on the woman, who, as we will see, had a lot of trash in her life.


It just so happened Jesus was also at that well when the woman approached.


It was about noon. Jesus and His disciples had stopped there to rest. It was after Jesus had sent His disciples into town to get food for lunch that the woman approached the well.


It needs to be pointed out it was customary for women to draw water in the morning and to do so in a group. It was cooler in the morning. It was safer to be in a group. Plus, being in a group provided fellowship and friendship.


The woman who approached the well did so at noon by herself. That is an indication there was a problem with her. The problem was she was not accepted by the other women of the city of Sychar. As the passage will explain, the lack of acceptance was caused by the woman living an immoral lifestyle.


As the woman approached the well and saw a man there, she must have been a bit apprehensive. A man, meeting a woman by herself, at least looked like a dangerous situation.


Imagine the woman’s surprise - maybe her apprehension increased - when the man talked to her. 


It was completely uncommon for a man to talk to a woman in public. Was He being forward? Was He about to attack her? What was His intent?


As it turned out, the man at the well - Jesus - had no evil plans. In fact, instead of attacking her, His goal was to reclaim her from the trash she had in her life that was negatively affecting her.


Jesus started toward that goal by asking the woman to give Him a drink. In the course of a conversation that followed that request, Jesus explained He had for her, not physical water, but living, spiritual water to offer her.


Jesus then pointed out to the woman the trash she had in her life. She of course already knew her lifestyle, but how amazing it is - how amazing it was to the woman - that Jesus knew it. Amazing because the woman had never met Jesus before, yet He knew about her.


The trash, which Jesus shared with her, was that the woman had been married five times, divorced five times, and was at that time living with yet another man, that one not her husband.


You know what that means? The woman had been and still was a home wrecker. She had a history of stealing other women’s husbands. That is why the woman was at the well by herself at noon. Why she was not accepted by the other women of the city. 


What horrible trash that was. But remember the idea of turning trash into gems? That is what Jesus offered the woman at the well. He knew all about her. He made that very plain when He told her what her trash was. Yet He still offered her living water.


Did the woman take advantage of Jesus’ offer to turn her into a gem? Interestingly, we are not told. 


The woman did return to Sychar and gave a report about Jesus. That is amazing, too. She was no longer afraid to talk to the people in her town. In the report, she asked them, “Could this be the Christ?” She was at least on the path to  accepting Jesus’ offer.


But listen. Jesus did offer the woman the opportunity to be reclaimed. To have the trash in her life be frosted and smoothed, creating a life of beauty. That is what Jesus offered her.


That is what Jesus offers us, too, even now. Will we take advantage of His willingness and ability to reclaim us?

The second example of the reclaiming work of Jesus is a woman caught in the act of adultery, which is recorded in the first part of chapter 8 of the Gospel of John. 


Just as it was with today’s first passage, there are many important points that can be made from today’s second passage. However, we will again concentrate mostly on the woman, who had been seen committing adultery.


That is of course an interesting concept, is it not? Had those who accused her been watching her? Spying on her? 


I do not know, but somehow the woman was seen committing adultery. And yes, that sin did occur. Never in the passage is there any denial of the charge. The woman was a sinner. Adultery was the trash in her life.


Upon the observation of adultery, those who saw the woman grabbed her, dragged her from where she was to the Jewish Temple, where Jesus was teaching. The woman’s accusers forced the woman - without giving her a chance to straighten her clothes or her hair or her countenance - to enter the Temple. They forced her to go to where Jesus was teaching. They placed the woman in the midst of the crowd listening to Jesus. 


They further interrupted the lesson by announcing, loudly enough for all to hear, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. You know that the law of Moses commands that we should stone her. What do You say about her?”


Did the woman feel like trash? She must have. And yes, she had sinned. Why, I do not know, but she had sinned. Now she was being dumped on the trash heap, many people around to see her and hear about how sinful she was.


The woman must have felt like trash that was being dumped. Being scared had to have been added to her embarrassment. She must have been fearful because she, like her accusers, knew the penalty for her sin was being stoned to death.


There the woman was, embarrassed and scared, in front of her accusers, along with those who had just been listening to Jesus’ lesson and Jesus Himself. What was going to happen to her?


What happened was this.


Instead of hearing Jesus say, “Go and stone her,” which could have happened - remember that is what the law of Moses said should happen, which means Jesus would have been justified in announcing such a sentence - the woman heard Him, at first, say nothing. All He did was stoop down and, with a finger, write something on the floor of the Temple.


That was strange. Jesus just stooped down and wrote something on the floor. An act that caused the woman’s accusers to continue their questioning of Jesus. They continued to ask Him what He thought should happen to the woman.


Especially with His silence, the accusers thought they had Jesus caught in a trap, which was their purpose. They were not so much against the woman. She was just a tool being used by them. Their reasoning was that if Jesus supported the woman, they could accuse Him of not being willing to follow the religious law of Moses. If, on the other hand, He condemned the woman, they could accuse Him of being mean and cruel, which, they hoped, would turn common people away from Him.


The accusers thought they had Jesus caught in a trap. But then He stood back up and made just one comment. He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then stooped over again and once again, with a finger, wrote something on the floor.


Remember what happened? All the accusers, one by one, left the Temple. I think the same happened with all those who had been listening to Jesus. I think that was the case because soon, the only ones left were the woman and Jesus.


Jesus looked at her and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”


The woman answered, “No one, Lord.”


Jesus responded, “Neither do I condemn you.” Notice Jesus did not say the woman had not sinned, He in no way condoned or excused the adultery she had committed. The fact that her sin was trash was still evident.


However, instead of leaving the woman as trash, Jesus was willing to give her another chance. To work with her so she could eventually be frosted and smoothed into something beautiful. Spiritually beautiful. That is what Jesus’ next statement meant. He said to the woman, “Go, and do not sin again.”


Did the woman caught in adultery take advantage of Jesus’ offer to turn her into a gem. Interestingly, she is not mentioned again, so we do not know, but He would not have told her to sin no more if it had not been possible for her to obey. She would have been able to obey through strength He was and is willing to share with everyone.


The opportunity was there for the woman to be reclaimed. Jesus was willing to do that, just as He is for each of us.


With the first two examples of Jesus’ reclaiming work we have considered, both have to do with women. Women who had engaged in immorality. However, Jesus’ offer to turn trash into gems applies to men as well, and to shortcomings other than those that are physical in nature. Such as what happened in the life of Peter.


Remember Peter? He was always the boldest of Jesus’ disciples, the most out-spoken among them, the one who was first to volunteer for whatever, the first to promise loyalty to Jesus, including right before Jesus’ arrest at the end of the Lord’s earthly, physical ministry.


Remember. After the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before His crucifixion, Jesus told them they would all fall away from Him. 


Peter is the one who argued with Jesus, Peter said he could not speak for the others, which was kind of a put down to them, but, Peter added, not him. Peter promised to never fall away from Jesus. He even claimed to be ready and willing to give his life for Jesus if that was what would happen. He said, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You.”


Peter talked a great game, but when it came down to it, he could not play a great game. 


Remember? A short time later, when Jesus was on trial following His arrest, Peter was in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. It was in the house the trial of Jesus was held. At least Peter was in the courtyard. That was kind of brave.


However, in the courtyard, three times Peter was identified as being a follower of Jesus. All three times he denied the association, twice saying he did not even know Jesus, let alone followed Him.


What a horrible failure that was. Failure that was trash in Peter’s life. Trash that made Peter feel disgusting and embarrassed.


But remember? Just three days after that - on the day of Jesus’ resurrection - Jesus made an offer to reclaim Peter. That began with Jesus’ message that He wanted to meet with Peter.


Jesus wanted to meet with the other disciples, too, but Peter was named specifically. That is amazing after Peter’s failures.


This time we know the result. Peter did take advantage of Jesus’ offer to turn him into a gem. He did that by allowing himself to be forgiven. He allowed himself to be given a second chance. A chance to do better than before, which did happen. 


Here are just a few of the things Peter did in his ministry, these listed in the Book of Acts. 


Peter preached. He preached so effectively that after one sermon, about 3000 people accepted Jesus as Savior, all of them, from that moment on, devoted to the Christian faith, seen in them being willing, right away, to learn and pray and have fellowship with each other.

Peter, in the name of Jesus, healed a lame man.

Peter prayed for a woman who had died. The woman came back to life.

Peter stood up to and argued against Jewish authorities. He kept doing that even when he was imprisoned for preaching. 

Another thing, this one not mentioned in Acts or anywhere else in the Bible, but based on history and legend. Peter did indeed die for Jesus. He died by crucifixion. That we know from history. The legend is that he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not think himself worthy of dieing the same way Jesus died.

What a transformation for Peter, at one time giving evidence of the trash of talking big, but not carrying through, then being reclaimed to the gem of a ministry that was effective, even in the face of suffering and death.


Other trash? Colossians 3:8-9. Let’s see if any of these are evident in us. 


Anger and wrath. A quick flame of fury and a deep-seated, long-lasting madness.

Malice, which is being eager to harm someone or hoping someone else will harm someone.

slander .

soul talk, which is often bad language and always abusive language.


Lieing.


We might have any of those examples of trash. Or, like Peter, we might have the trash of not living up to our spiritual promises. Or, like the women discussed earlier, we might have the trash of immorality in our lives. 


If that is the case - and in fact, at least some sort of trash has been or is part of each of us because, as the Bible states, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God - since there is trash in each of us, that is sad.


However, remember the point. Jesus can, like the waves of the ocean off Fort Bragg, California, take the trash in our lives, frost it and smooth it, and leave us like gems of glass. Gems that will include - again in Colossians 3, this time verses 12 through 14 - compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love.


We cannot do that reclaiming on our own. The only way it can happen is through Jesus. Which will happen by repenting of the trash in our lives, by accepting forgiveness for any and all things that are trash, by accepting Jesus as the Savior from the trash, by allowing Him to work in us to make us better.


Like the ocean waves near Fort Bragg, Jesus may tumble you and me a bit as He works with us, but the result will be spiritual gems. 


And, unlike on Glass Beach in California, other people may not ooh and aah at the sight of us, but God will be pleased. What a reward that will be.


today’s closing song is Jesus Is Lord of All.


All my tomorrows, all my past -

Jesus is Lord of all.

I’ve quit my struggles, contentment at last!

Jesus is Lord of all.

King of kings, Lord of lords,

Jesus is Lord of all;

All my possessions and all my life,

Jesus is Lord of all.


All of my conflicts, all my thoughts -

Jesus is Lord of all.

His love wins the battles I could not have fought;

Jesus is Lord of all.

King of kings, Lord of lords,

Jesus is Lord of all;

All my possessions and all my life,

Jesus is Lord of all.


All of my longings, all my dreams -

Jesus is Lord of all.

All of my failures His power redeems;

Jesus is Lord of all.

King of kings, Lord of lords,

Jesus is Lord of all.

All my possessions and all my life,

Jesus is Lord of all.


Lord, thank You for loving us, despite the trash we have in our lives. Thank You that Your love extends to Your great desire to reclaim us. To make us gems. 


For some of us, that has already happened, though we still may, from time to time, require more frosting and smoothing. Keep us eager for that to continue to happen as often as it is needed. For others, there is a need to be frosted and smoothed for the first time. Help people in that category to accept what You offer.


Thank You for Your love. For Your reclaiming. For Your salvation. Salvation that starts with accepting You as the Savior You are.


Thank You. Amen.

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