Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch newsletter 26 April 2020

Do you remember the Wombles?
Underground, overground, Wombling free
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we
Making good use of the things that we find
Things that the everyday folks leave behind.

I’ve been reading about unexpected “leavings behind”, scriptures dumped on an Egptian refuse tip 300km or so south of Alexandria, during the first few centuries of the Christian Era. You can read the academic paper for yourself, if you’re into that sort of thing:https://religion.princeton.edu/wp-content/uploads/Luijendijk-Sacred-Scriptures-as-Trash-VC.pdf

No-one’s too sure why they were dumped, although one theory is that scribes discarded papyrii which had the ancient equivalent of our typos. Whatever, they were preserved under desert sand until the late 19thC when researchers were alerted to them, and began to retrieve and study them. Some were gnostic, or not incorporated into what is now our accepted canon, but some were variants of canonical Gospels and Apostolic letters. All have been valuable, either to contribute to our more accurate contemporary translations, or to cast light on the battles over heresy which beset the church in antiquity. Like the Wombles, those researchers made good use of the things which everyday folk left behind - on a garbage tip!

Hebrews 13 describes the early Jewish practice of offering the blood of slain animals as a sacrifice, as something holy. But the animals’ bodies were burned “outside the camp”, ie on the refuse tip outside the city wall, the Unholy of Unholies if you like. Verse 12: And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

We might feel a bit discarded right now, with certain economists and pundits suggesting that some of us are disposable. But God can make good use of us “Left behinds”, made holy and useful by the One who was discarded on that garbage tip outside Jerusalem’s walls.

Verse 15: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others.

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