GARBAGE, GOATS, AND GOD
by David Sisler
Collectively, Americans throw out 160 million tons of garbage each year. That's 1547 pounds of garbage for every man, woman, and child in our country. That much trash could cover 1000 football fields to a depth of a 30 story building, or form a convoy of 10 ton garbage trucks more than 145,000 miles long.
One of the problems we face in dealing with garbage is the philosophy called, NIMBY. NIMBY is an anagram for "Not In My Back Yard."
A classic example was the voyage of the freighter Pelicano in 1986. For more than two years the Pelicano sailed around the world trying to unload its cargo. Not one single nation was willing to allow the ship to enter their harbors because the ship's cargo included more than 14,000 tons of toxic ash. In October, 1988, 4000 pounds of the cargo was simply dumped off the coast of Haiti. One month later, when the Pelicano docked in Singapore, none of the ash was on board.
At about the same time, the city of Islip, New York, sold 3200 tons of its garbage to an Alabama businessman. He was going to sell it to North Carolina for disposal there. When environmentalists blocked his plans, he tried 5 other states and 3 foreign nations. He eventually had to sell it back to Islip.
Every fall, the nation of Israel, and orthodox Jews around the world, celebrate Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. It was first observed 3500 years ago in, what the Old Testament calls, the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Early in the morning, Aaron, Israel's first high priest, began an elaborate ritual of cleansing. He first prepared a sin offering. Then he washed his body from head to toe and then dressed in special linen clothes worn only on that day. Next, two goats were chosen to be sacrificed. One would die; the other - the scapegoat - would live.
After Aaron had offered a sacrifice just for his sins and those of his family, he prayed over the scapegoat. He placed his hands on the head of the goat and symbolically transferred all of the sins of the entire nation of Israel onto the scapegoat. A bell was tied around the goat's neck, and a man from the congregation would lead the goat far out into the wilderness.
The meaning was obvious - as the sound of the bell around the neck of the scapegoat became fainter and fainter, the sins of the people were removed farther and farther away from their lives. When at last they could no longer hear the bell, it meant that their sins were completely removed.
Suppose the goat had found its way back to the camp? Can you imagine the anxiety that would have caused? They would have worried about the scapegoat, rather than remembering the goat who died. His blood was offered to God to completely remove and forgive that year's sins.
But imagine the terror of seeing your sins come back to you. Do you think the owners of the Pelicano wanted to sail around for two years with a load of garbage? Do you think the people of Islip wanted their garbage back? They discovered an interesting truth - no one wants your garbage.
Well, where do you and I dump the garbage of our lives?
Do we put it on the head of a goat?
And what if the goat comes back?
Do you remember Love Canal? Between 1947 and 1952, a 16-acre area was filled with industrial waste, covered over and then sold to build homes and schools. 30 years later the ground began to ooze with the deadly poisons - poisons which were only hidden, never removed.
I tried to hide the garbage of my own life. Perhaps you've done it, too. No one would take it. When I thought I had gotten rid of it, it wandered back. When I thought I had successfully covered it, it bubbled out. Over and over, I had to deal with it. Then I found a scapegoat. Rather He found me.
"Come unto me," He said, "All ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Now, about your garbage, like the Pelicano, like Islip, haven't you carried it long enough?
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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