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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

September, 2001

We usually want our children to have our good qualities and not our faults. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way we might hope. Like me, our almost-nine-year-old daughter, Monica, has trouble getting up in the morning. One morning, recently, I told her, “Monica, haul your carcass out of bed!”

She replied, “Daddy, I don’t have a carcass!”

Well! I guess she told me! In a way, she reminded me of the way I sometimes respond when there’s something I need to do, something I don’t want to do, the way I sometimes respond to the call of God. At those times, I need to haul my own carcass out of wherever it is. But instead, I respond by saying, “But I don’t have a carcass!”

The notion of having a carcass presents a truly gruesome picture. Imagine if you were forced to drag around a dead animal—a carcass—for any length of time. Yuk! And yet, that is exactly what we do sometimes when we drag around our guilt and sin. A carcass means death and so does sin (Rom. 5:12).

In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a sailor shoots an innocent albatross with his crossbow. Afterward, the wind dies down and the sailing ship is becalmed—stuck with no wind to move it. His fellow sailors stare at him with “evil looks” as if he is responsible. As a result, the sailor feels as if the albatross has been figuratively hung around his neck, as some people might wear a cross. There is no fresh water. His fellow crewmen—two hundred of them—all die, but somehow the sailor survives. For seven days and nights, he is alone with his guilt, surrounded by the bodies of his former comrades. He is unable even to pray. At last, when the wind begins to blow again, the sailor feels that he has been forgiven:

“The self same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

When Coleridge's sailor is rescued, he hears one of his rescuers tell of a hermit, who will “. . . wash away the Albatross's blood.” We have blood on us as well. We are stained by the blood of sin. Ashamed, we cry with the Psalmist:

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” (Psa. 38:4 NIV.)

And yet, it is blood that washes us clean, removes our stains, and makes us whole—the blood of Christ. We know someone who will wash away the blood of sin. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NIV.) This is the promise of the gospel: release from our burden of sin and guilt (Gal. 5:1). This is the message that we bear, the gospel we proclaim. We are not the only ones who drag around carcasses of guilt, who are stained with the blood of sin. There are others who are afflicted in the same way. We must reach out to them and let them know that they can find release from their burdens and cleansing for their souls.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
“This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” (1 John 5:3-8 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps