Text: Psalm 123
Some years back I was reading a business journal that was exploring lucrative fields for the future. Most of it was tech and medically related but not all of it. One particular line stuck with me, “There will be profitable future markets for people who can make other people’s trash go away.”
The whole issue of trash removal is the kind of thing you take for granted until you can’t take for granted anymore. I was in Houston not so long ago after the major flooding in the city. The actual flood occurred a few weeks prior but as I drove past neighborhoods on the way to the airport, trash was stacked on the curbs everywhere as far as I could see. Water damaged dry-wall, carpets, furniture, mattresses and sofas were stacked six or seven feet high in front of most of the houses. There was just too much trash all at once and there wasn’t anyone to pick it up so it just piled up. I was thinking, “That has to be smelling awful by now and that can’t be healthy.” Does your life ever feel that way? You experience peace in quiet moments or when you are at church but overall the trash just keeps piling up?
At our house, dealing with trash is easy. We take everything we don’t want, put into green containers with wheels and roll it out to the street on Wednesday mornings. This is where it gets brilliant! We have this deal worked out where people we don’t even know make everything we don’t want go away. They put it in this noisy truck and they take it to parts unknown and we don’t have to look at it, deal with it or smell it ever again. That is really a good deal, especially in the summer where if we missed even a couple of weeks, things would begin to get really bad. Don’t you wish life worked that way? Every week could just sit our emotional, relational, spiritual and vocational garbage out front and someone would roll up and take it away?
Well the Christian faith works exactly like that and that is why the early proponents called it the Good News. The Bible says that we are all sinners. Every one of us. So we all have trash in our lives and it starts piling up after a while. Some of it smells pretty badly because it is rotting, some is about to start rotting and some rotted long ago. That trash consists of our bad attitudes, internal issues, hurts and disappointments, bad theology, moral and ethical failures and those parts of our pasts that haunt us. Now some people just sit it all out front on social media and others try to hid it but the reality is that it is there. If we don’t figure out how to get rid of our garbage, the pile gets bigger, smells worse, creates an increasingly unhealthy environment and does more damage to us and those around us by the day.
I am about to say something shocking. Jesus came to earth lived, died and rose again to take your trash away and he paid for the whole thing!
- And not only that, but he will clean things up and replace our anxiety, drama and fear with peace.
- And not only that, but he will empower us to produce less garbage in the future.
- And not only that, but because we have been forgiven, Jesus enables us to forgive those who have hurt and harmed us.
- And not only that, but when we forgive, we are thrust in the process of complete and total healing.
Sound too good to be true? That is why they call it Good News!
Psalms 120-134 were sung as people traveled to Jerusalem to worship God. In week one, we explored Psalm 120 which established God as the giver of peace. In week two we discovered in Psalm 121 that God is also the keeper of our peace. Last week we explored the peace God gives us collectively in Psalm 122 (stones at SYNC) and today we look at Psalm 123.
V. 1 I lift up my eyes to you, O God enthroned in heaven Psalm 121 opened with, “I look to the mountains- does my help come from there?” The answer was, “No.” Psalm 123 opens, “I lift my eyes to you, O God enthroned in heaven.” Now we are getting somewhere! For the Psalmist, God was in heaven; to see him you looked first to Mt. Zion and then kept looking even higher. I wonder how many times we miss our true source of help because we are looking too low. The next time you get discouraged, feeling sorry for yourself or feel the garbage piling up too high; lift your eyes to the Lord!
V. 2 We look to the Lord our God for his mercy, as a servant looks to his master Mercy as it is used Biblically, has two parts. There must be a true need on the part of the receiver of mercy and the power to meet that need on the part of the giver of mercy. What prompts the meeting of the need is compassion. Mercy happens when someone is in a bad place and someone with the capacity to do something about it; does something about it! In our Wednesday Romans study, we have learned that we are all sinners, sin leads to death, God had mercy on us and give us a chance of redemption through Christ. What we have there are the conditions for mercy. We had a problem, an almighty God had compassion on us and provided a solution in Jesus.
V. 3 Have mercy on us for we have had our fill of contempt The pilgrim has been ridiculed for his faith. We heard his lament toward the godless culture surrounding him in Psalm 120. The Hebrew means to be so full, you can’t take another bite. May I paraphrase? “Help me Jesus because I can’t take any more!” (MY FILL OF SOCIAL MEDIA)
A Cycle of Historical Christianity
- It begins as a counter-cultural movement
- It wins over the culture
- It becomes an ineffective and accommodating institution
- It loses influence
- It reemerges as a counter-cultural movement
It doesn’t feel good as Christians today to be held in contempt by parts of the culture but God’s work in the world is not conditional on how we feel. Not everything that feels good is good and not everything that feels bad is bad. Christianity is at its very best as a persecuted movement and at its worst when it is an entitled institution.
Now that our pilgrim is actually inside Jerusalem’s gates, in the Temple and marinating in the presence of God; his attention shifts from complaining about his neighbors to bringing the pain they have caused him before the Lord. We must let God move us from complaining about our troubles, toward pouring out our hearts before him. “Lord, I have lousy neighbors and this culture is a disaster” is not a prayer God can do much with but “Lord, I have been hurt and I need your healing” has us on the path to salvation. We need to move from sending the home association complaints about the garbage in front of our neighbor’s house to getting the garbage cleared from our house.
V. 4 We have had our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant The Psalmist had been made to feel inadequate, small, rejected and despised by those around him simply because he places his trust in God and God’s word. His neighbors probably called him hateful because he believed there is such a thing as sin, closed minded because he only believed in one God and chided him for not getting with the sensibilities of his culture. They probably told him that he is not only wrong; but probably the worst person in the history of the world as compared with their enlightened and more cosmopolitan views. Stones have been hurled at him and he is bruised and hurting.
This is not the kind of surface hurt we experience when a known gossip speaks ill of us, someone goes off on Facebook, a bully shoves on us or a loudmouth offends us. In these cases you consider the source. This is also not the careless slip of the tongue from a loved one or the angry snip of a friend. The Psalmist is talking about cold, calculated actions taken by evil people to bring contempt upon him. As he worships, he cries, “God I have had all I can stand down here; can you help me get up there? My eyes are looking too low; can you raise my line of sight?”
Some of you are facing overwhelming circumstances for which you can see no solution and piles of ever accumulating garbage are all you can see. Aren’t you sick of looking at it? Aren’t you tired of dragging all that pain around? I want to offer a radical option. Leave your garbage here. Don’t take it back out with you. Let Jesus haul it off.
You ever watch the show “Hoarders?” It is a really sad show about really disturbed people with psychological hoarding disorders. These people live in utter squalor. Many of these homes are so filled with trash that the owners can’t even move from room to room. They are burying themselves alive in a garbage dump of their own making. Concerned families called the show to get intervention for their loved ones and it began by cleaning things up. Simple right? Wrong. The problem is that their garbage has become precious to these people and they can’t imagine life without it.
- The question is never, “Is the place a dump?” It is.
- The question is never, “Can this garbage be removed?” It can.
- The question is never, “Who will remove the garbage?” The team is on site.
- The question is never, “Can they afford the removal?” Someone already footed the bill.
- The question is, “Is this person too attached to their garbage to let someone remove it?”
On the surface, getting rid of your inner garbage seems like an easy decision but on Hoarders it never is. When I was in high school we lived just down the road from the Blue Bell meat packing company in DuQuoin. They killed cows and pigs and turned them into things people used to eat like slick meats and canned hams. There were days it smelled really bad. People would visit us and comment on the smell but I really didn’t even notice it; it sort of smelled like home. Some of you no longer see your garbage; some you are actually attached to it and still others have become convinced that is just the way it is. You know you have a terrible attitude, unhealthy relationships, deep wounds and bad habits but they are the only things you have so you hang because you can’t imagine having nothing at all. And not only that but they feel a bit like home. If you like living in perpetual drama and anxiety, I don’t have much to offer but perhaps, there are some who are ready to let God haul away your trash, heal your pain and lift up your heads. Are you ready to be healed, forgiven, freed, delivered and saved? Are you ready to receive the help that is being freely offered?
Getting Rid of the Garbage
- Look to God (V.1)
- Worship God (V.2)
- Share your pain with God (V.3)
- Receive God’s mercy (V.4)
I lift up my eyes to you.
I am so helpless in my own strength. Without your mercy, I don’t have a chance.
I can’t bear to live another day being held in contempt by arrogant people.
I can’t bear to live another day in the garbage that surrounds me.
Take away my sins. Wash me clean. Save me.
In Jesus’ strong name, Amen!
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.