The Garbage Can Musicians (A Passing of the Peace Message)

(Each Sunday at Asbury Church, we begin our services with what I call, for a lack of a better term, a “sermonette”.   It is the moment of our worship, which seperates the usually quite lengthy announcement portion of our service, and moves us into worship and praise.   It serves to stress the role and function of the church, sets the tone for the message/theme for the Sunday, and leads us into our observance of the “Passing of Christ’s Peace”.   I believe that one of the most important things we can do as people of faith, is to stress that worship and praise is not authentic unless we begin by recognizing that the Gospel calls each of us to reach out our hand to another, and pass along the invitation of Christ (Is this not, the very definition of the Passing of the Peace moment?).   These moments start with a story, illustration, or scripture that illustrates that truth, or the truth about who we should be, how we should act, and what we should be pursuing as people of faith.   This is the Passing of the Peace moment from August 29, 2010)


Zig Ziglar tells a story about a retired man, who decided many years after the death of his wife, that the house that he had spent so many years, and raised his kids in, was becoming too much for him to handle.   With all its empty rooms, and large lot of land, it was becoming to tiresome and costly to maintain.   After a few years, he finally came to accept the fact that he would be better off in a smaller home.

As he searched for a new house, he decided that he wanted to live in the center of town.   This way, he could be closer to the stores, and to his doctors.   He was getting older, and he realized that he wouldn’t be driving forever.   Moving into the center of town was just more practical.   Finally he saw and decided upon a small craftsman home by a local middle school.

When he told his friends and family, they all thought he was making a mistake in his choice of homes.  

It was too close to the school, they said.    Kids are not the same today.   They are disrespectful, they will wake you up on their way to school.   They will trash your gardens.    He’ll hate it instantly, they all wagered.  Yet the man, with an over abundance of self confidence, told everyone he could handle the kids, and promptly moved into his new house.

It didn’t take him long to realize exactly what his friends were warning him about.   The very first morning in the house, he was awoken by a group of kids stopping in front of his house to play the drums on his garbage cans.    This happened every morning and every afternoon on their way to and from school.

At first he tried to ignore it, but with each passing day it grew on his nerves.   Eventually he had enough.  He had to think of a plan.    After a few days, an idea came to him.

The next morning, he met the kids when they reached the front of his house.   With a smile, he approached the kids and told them how much he enjoyed their drumming.   He said that it reminded them of his own youth when he and his friends, now long since gone, would play the garbage cans on their own walk to school.

He made them an offer.   He would pay each of the kids $1.00 a day, if they stopped for a few minutes each day and play the drums.    In amazement, the kids stared at each other for a few seconds, and excitedly agreed to the new job.

For the first few days, they would play, and the old man would pay.   

After a few days, he went to the kids and told them that money was tight, and asked if it was okay to pay them only 50 cents a day.    After some discussion among the kids, they decided that 50 cents was better than nothing and agreed.

For a few more days they played the garbage drums.

Then one morning, the old man met them again.    With all the forced sadness he could muster, he approached the kids and told them that he had run out of money.    He said that the recession had hit him really hard, and there was no way that he could pay.

He asked them if they could play for free each day.

In an instant, he got his reply.

“Are you kidding?   We are not playing for free!   If you think we will come here each day for nothing,…then you have lost your mind, old man!”

With that, they scrambled off to school.   They never returned to play the garbage can drums again.    The old man found the peace that he was looking for all along, and he laughed at the wisdom that comes with age.

At first the temptation is to see the old man as the important part of the story.  Here is a man, who had great wisdom, and great patience that wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.    Without getting angry, or losing his temper, he resolved a problem that had plaguing his neighborhood for years.    He certainly, acted in a kind, gentle almost Christ-Like way to resolve his issue. He is certainly someone we want to associate ourselves with.   At the same time, I cannot help but think we need to pay attention to the kids in this story.

Once, they travelled up and down the streets of that neighborhood, smiling and laughing.   The joy and playfulness that they shared came loudly to everyone’s attention in their drum playing.    They weren’t bad kids, they were happy, normal, everyday kids…and that came through in banging the cans on their way to school.

Yet sadly, something changed.    Along the way, they lost focus.    What was once an expression of joy and happiness turned to money.   They stopped focusing on what was fun, and focused on everything else. 

50 plus years ago the church was the center of small town life.    Inside the walls of the church building, people gathered for not only worship and study, but for fun and fellowship.    The church was a place of joy, hope, and peace.

Sadly, along the way something changed.    The focus of the church shifted so much that the joy was lost.    In that shifting, something else took its place, and that something else, whatever it was, was easier to forget about.   It was easier to give up.

I suggest to you, that as we hear Ziglar’s story, we need to consider how overtime, the purpose of the church has changed.    What happened along the way that made it easier for them to forget about us, in their travels from their home to whatever or where ever their destinations may be?

  • Maybe it was when we replaced welcomes with judgment.
  • Maybe it was when we tried to convince them faith was one sided; or all about what they can do for us.
  • Maybe it was when we got so lost in the business of church that we forgot to pay attention to the spirit of it.

In the end, whatever it was, it took a long time to lose.   Sadly it will probably take as long to recover.

We need to realize that we need to start thinking in simpler terms.   We need to start thinking outside of the box.    How do we reach a generation that has lost the focus and lost sight of our true purpose? How do we convince this “lost” generation to give us another shot.

Whatever we decide, I believe it begins with a very simple step.  

It begins with the promise of welcome.  When our neighbors find themselves in the shadow of our churches they must sense that welcome fully.   It doesn’t start with us telling them why they are wrong for not coming for so long, or how much better we are having things figured out.    The first step is in the reminder that there is a place here for them too; and that place is still a place of hope, joy, and celebration.  Maybe they will give the church another shot.

If they do, we need to show them that we are people who are willing to joyfully bang the drums, and remind them to do the same.   So, I ask that you not only consider the Peace that we pass, but understand that we are putting out our welcome, and our reminder…In hopes that we can make a difference, and we can make a change.   Consider this responsibility, and join me in Passing Christ’s Peace.

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