Dented Cans

Dented Cans


Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-46

He put before them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.'

He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.'

'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.


A while back, while I was in seminary in Atlanta, a summer program I was helping to lead hosted A Day of Interfaith Youth Service. It was a huge success. Over 60 teens from different faith traditions descended upon the Atlanta Community Food Bank and MedShare International with one purpose: to serve.

My day had a rough start. I scraped the left side of a passenger van on a cement piling pulling out of a parking deck. Then my van-full of cherubic teens bugged the whole time I was driving a different passenger van to the Food Bank. The beautiful worship service the previous night had suddenly turned into a sideshow. And I was heading toward the end of a ten-day on-duty stint. It was hard.

By the time we arrived at the food bank, I was ill in the Southern sense. I was tired and grumpy and irritated. When we gathered to eat lunch, I discovered my sandwich was nothing but bread and tuna -- plain tuna.

We watched a cute video on the food bank while we ate, then were sent to our stations in the warehouse. I mindlessly inspected cans for expiration dates and damage. Soon, four hours had passed.

It was nice doing mindless, productive work. In the midst of a youth program that challenged the deepest notions of God and the world, it was calming and relieving to accomplish something, anything. At the end of the day they told us the amount of work we'd done--over 7,000 meals were sorted and packaged.

It was a powerful revelation. For hours we sorted. The majority of goods that passed through our hands were dented and damaged. Some were completely broken, others were jagged. But most were just the cans that were passed over because they carried a dent or two.

Yet it was these dented cans that would feed the hungry, and in that way, they carried life.

For weeks, we had been talking about what it means to serve, what it means to follow Christ, what it means to pray "thy kingdom come." I returned home from our Day of Service with a deeper understanding of the Christian life and even the scriptures.

As it turns out, the Kingdom of Heaven is like dented cans.


God of us all, help us to find you in the everyday. Amen.

Jon M. Chapman

The Reverend Dr. Jonathan Chapman is pastor of Westfield Church in Killingly, CT 

July 23, 2014
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