Sunday, February 5, 2012

Redemption, Restoration and Vacuum Cleaners

There's a big swap meet just down the street from my Left Coast home. This is very convenient since I need things for this apartment.

I can afford to buy new things, but most of what I need does not have to be new. So we went to the swap meet and I picked up a vacuum cleaner for $5.

It was an "interesting" purchase from a "dumpster-diving" vendor. He was a colorful guy who assured me that the vacuum would work fine. Of course, when I got it home, I found it had no belt, a bad brush bar, and two rusted casters.

I had it cleaned up in no time at all and went out to find a brush and belt. I found a vacuum repair shop just a short bike ride from home. It turned out to be an even shorter drive...I haven't found a bike yet.

At the Vacuum shop, there was "Christian" music playing. The lady working there got me all fixed up and we talked briefly. I told her that I have followed Jesus for many years now and that I was new in the area. She offered me a brocure from her church (which was not local) and asked me if I found a "church home."

I told her about my plans to embed in the community and look for things to do to honor Christ and help people here. I said that I do have involvement and relationship with other disciples in the area, but this is important that I work at our common mission.

She looked doubtful and replied:

"Well, we have to get fed."

I must have looked doubtful, so she continued:

"How else are  we going to grow?"

I've both said this myself and heard it for years. In my "evangelical" days this translated into treating the world like a toxic waste dump and retreating to an attractive and safe church to "get fed" as often as possible. All of this coming out of a popular, but misbegotten belief that isolation and endless sermons will result in growth. I considered this for a moment and replied:

"I understand what you saying, but I'm not so concerned with getting fed. In 42 years I've learned how to cook."

Unfortunately, our conversation ended when several other customers came in. she is just as I was not too many years ago. I used to think that teaching was the key to maturity. But I know better now.

In Hebrews 5:12-14, the writer moves off-topic to address the immaturity of the readers. He points out that they are not growing. Indeed, they are in a state of arrested development. And note that the issue is not a lack of teaching. They seem to be going through the same stuff over and over (look how chapter 6 begins). Teaching is only part of the solution.

In Heb. 5:14 the writer seems to be saying that practice is the catalyst for growth. This is how it works. We practice, try, develop, and mature. Discipleship is not a theory we all sit in church and talk about. It is what we do, and in doing it, we become the Church, developing skills doing the good works we were made made to do.

As for the vacuum cleaner, that was an exercise in restoration and redemption. It serves as a reminder of those things. It works beautifully now. But just a month ago it was almost crushed in a garbage truck and dumped into a landfill. As I write this, it is standing next to my refrigerator ready to go.

Just a five dollar purchase and twenty dollars in parts...restoration.

I am wondering what God will do in this community with my small investments?


  1. This is a great illustration of what we do in our culture with people. If they look like they require work and we aren't sure where to start for restoration we set them out as discarded. I hope the saleswoman in the parts store learned from your brief connection a bit about the value of seeing people as worthy of investing into. May she learn to cook, and not just by recipes, but by seeing the whole of the kitchen.

  2. I'm so glad you heard that! It's funny how our consumerist mentality tends to dictate how we live more than what we learned from Christ Himself.
    I think the big contrast here was the idea that we have to find a comfy church to bury ourselves in. But we were made to be agents of Christ in the world not to run away and hide in a religious ghetto. to be spoon fed. People who lie around doing nothing and getting fed are usually found in hospitals our convalescent homes.
    I need the fellowship of the saints, not to sit in a crowd facing a stage. Some of the loneliest and unproductive times in my life have been spent in churches.
    Look for another post called "Breakfast Club." I'm going to introduce you to some people I've been having breakfast with recently.