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Recycled or Renewed?

“Create in me a clean heart O God, ‘recycle’ a fresh spirit within me”?
The vigor of Recyleman’s antics at the summer’s Spokane Indians baseball games, combined with the recurring theme “reduce, reuse, recycle” that has been ingrained in me since my childhood when the green movement was just starting to grow has habituated me. Now when I’m finished with a jar of jelly or a cereal box, I don’t think twice. The jar is rinsed, the box flattened, and both go into the recycling bin.
Every time I put something in that bin I feel good. I imagine the jelly jar being melted down and turned into a wine bottle for someone’s chardonnay. I envision the cereal box becoming a shipping container for someone’s priority mail. I feel good knowing it’s being reused and the material headed to the landfall or contributing to greenhouse gasses is being reduced. Don’t you?
Recently all my good intentions were put into question when the Spokesman took the lid off the recycling container. A recent article explained how in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene your cereal box will most certainly end up as an apple container in Wenatchee, but your jelly jar will probably be used as fill material on a roadbed, in an open pit, or more likely in the landfill itself.
It seems there are limited glass recycling companies in the Northwest and the ones that are here are already inundated with scrap glass. Using it for fill material is the most economical reduce and reuse our cities can find. I suppose it’s still “recycling,” but I don’t feel nearly as good about it. It almost makes me weary of going through the effort to recycle it.
Isn’t that the way it often is when we try to do something helpful. We attempt to do something good and right but we find out later it wasn’t helpful in the way we thought. We wonder later, maybe I shouldn’t have done that or I should have done that differently.
Whenever you and I try to do something good, it’s kind of like this adventure in recycling. Sometimes it works well, but more often not so well.
I’m glad the little prayer I quoted at the beginning of this article isn’t the way David wrote Psalm 51:10. When God creates a new heart in us, he’s not just “recycling” the old one. He’s not reducing and reusing our old spirit, which may find no apparent use besides spiritual fill dirt. The word David used was “renew.” “Create in me a clean heart O God, renew a right Spirit within me.” 
The right Spirit that David prays for is God’s Spirit. His Spirit is always fresh and new in our lives. His Spirit always accomplishes the good He sets out to do. His Spirit forgives and makes up for even the shortcomings in our best efforts. The Lutheran Confessions put that this way:  they say that “we need mercy even in our good works.” God’s Spirit also always answers this prayer for renewal. 
“We serve in the new way of the Spirit,” says Romans 7:6. That means I need not worry if my good works are effectual. Living prayerfully with David’s prayer on my lips, I can trust the Spirit of God to accomplish his good through my efforts. So let your jars be recycled but let your Spirit be renewed. “Let us not become weary of doing good” Galatians 6:9 says; in the Spirit we can always feel good about what God’s doing through us.
In Jesus,
Pastor Mike


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