TAKING OUT THE TRASH

 

The woman flops down on the bench and drops her trash bag between her feet.She stares at the sidewalk.Everything aches.Back, legs, neck.Her shoulder is stiff and her hands raw all because of the sack.Oh to be rid of the garbage.Unbroken clouds form a grey ceiling.Soot-stained buildings cast long shadows.Drizzle chills the air.The woman collects her jacket.A passing car drenches the sack and splashes her jeans.She doesnít move, sheís too tired.Her memories of life without trash are fuzzy.As a child maybe, or was it a dream . . . maybe the trash has always been there.She never looks at the trash though.Early on she did, but what she saw was too much, so sheís kept the sack closed ever since.What else can she do?Give it to someone?Everybody already has their own garbage!

 

You donít find bags of trash selling well on E-Bay.Nobody wants garbage.We have plenty of our own and we too are trying to find ways to get rid of it.The Pelicano is the worldís most unwanted ship.Back in 1986 the municipal workers in Philadelphia went on strike and trash began to really pile up. The owners of the barge, the Pelicano thought they would make a quick buck by transporting the rubbish.The trash was burned and the ashes dumped in the belly of the boat.But once that happened, no country would let the Pelicano dock and unload . . . so it wanders the high seas . . . with itís garbage.

 

Life has a way of dumping her rubbish on our decks too doesnít it . . . Load after load of anger, bitterness, deceit, lust . . . the stuff listed in Ephesians 4.That trash affects us.It contaminates as it were our relationships.And I guess we can stick with our stinky cargo so to speak, and drift from port to port.But the captain and creator of our lives has better plans for us.

 

Here comes a young mother.With one hand she leads a child and with the other she drags her load.Here comes an old man.His trash sack is so long that it hits the back of his legs as he walks.He glances at the woman and tries to smile.

What weight would he be carrying she wonders as he passes by.

Regrets.She turns to see who spoke and beside her on the bench sits a man.Like hers, his jeans are mud stained.Unlike hers, his shoulders are straight.She looks around for his trash but doesnít see it.He watches the old man disappear as he explains.As a young father he worked many hours and neglected his family.His children donít love him.His sack is full of regrets.She doesnít respond but he continues.And yours?Mine, she asks, looking at him.Shame, he says gently and compassionately.She still doesnít speak but neither does she turn away.Too many hours in the wrong arms.Last year . . . last night . . . Shame!

 

Shifting through peopleís trash can tell you a lot about them.Look inside your trash bag.What is it that you need to throw out but for some reason just canít, or donít, or wonít.

 

How about lonliness?Judy Bucknell was not a prostitute, on drugs or welfare.She wasnít a social outcast.She hosted parties and had an apartment that overlooked the bay.But she was very lonely.ďI see people together and I want to throw up. She was quoted as saying.What about me, what about me.Though she had many acquaintances she had few friends.Though she had many lovers (59 in 56 months) she had little love.Who is going to love Judy Bucknell she wrote in her diary.I feel so unloved, abandoned, used up . . . I want to cry and sleep forever.Her body died on June 9th from the self-inflicted knife wounds but her heart died long before.Iím alone, she wrote, and I want to share something with somebody!Lonliness. Our world is full of Judy Bucknells.You can hear their cries in the retirement center amidst the sighs and shuffling feet.You can hear it in the suburbs, in the prisons, in the school hallways where peer pressure weeds out those who have and those who have not.Judy Bucknell was not alone.Lots of people are lonely.

 

How about worry?Worry divides the mind, which is literally what the biblical greek word means.Anxiety splits our energies between todayís priorities and tomorrowís problems.The result is half-minded living!But thatís not all.Worry is connected to many diseases- high blood pressure, heart trouble, headaches, stomach disorders . . .

Itís an expensive habit and maybe it would be worth it if it worked, but it doesnít.Jesus said in Matthew 6:27 that you cannot change anything in your life by worrying about it.But people do . . . itís in a lot of our trash bags.

 

How about pain.The wound is old and you are angry.The wound is fresh and you are hurt.Part of us is broken and part of us is bitter.How about resentment and bitterness?Resentment is the cocaine of emotions, and like cocaine it demands larger and more frequent doses until rage is a driving force.How about failures and regret - - - If you could do it over you would . . . Paul said in Romans 6:23 that the wages (payment) of all these things (sin) is death.He didnít say the wages is a bad mood, or a hard day . . . the wages are fatal . . . And we try to deal with the potential fatality by talking about it with therapists or legalistically trying to cover it with good deeds or partying to forget . . . but thereís got to be more!

 

Back to our story.She stiffens as she steels herself against the scorn she has learned to expect.As if she needed more shame, but she awaits his judgment.But it never comes.His voice is compassionate and warm as he asks, will you give me your trash?What could he mean?Give it to me, tomorrow at the landfill.Will you bring it.He gently rubs a smudge from her cheek.Friday, the landfill.Long after he leaves she replay the scene, touching her cheek.His invitation lingers and she tries to dismiss his words but she canít.How could he know what he knew about her and still be so kind?That nightís sleep brought summer dreams but when she awakes it is dark and drizzling.At the foot of her bed awaits her sack of trash.Hoisting the bag over her shoulder she walks out of the apartment and down the stairs and out into the street.Itís Friday.For a time she stands thinking, wondering what he meant and if he meant it.With hope just barely outweighing hopelessness she heads toward the edge of town and finds others walking in the same direction.A teenage girl walks a few feet ahead and the woman of shame hurries to catch up.The girl volunteers an answer before the question can be asked-Itís rage, rage at my father and mother . . . Iím tired of the anger and he said heíd take it.She motions to her sack.Iím going to give it to Him.The woman nods and the two walk together!

Imagine for a moment that Friday is trash day at your house (it really is at ours).You awake to the roar of the truck and dash out to the curb with your three cans . . . the garbage men smile or roll their eyes---another should have remembered to do it last night late-comer desperate to get rid of last weekís smells.But what it this Friday was different.You slept right through the truckís wake up call-but you hear a knock at the door.Itís the garbage man, who noticed that your trash was missing, wanting to know if everything is ok!The shock of it all makes you forget how silly you look.He really cares, you think!Do you know what.The God of the Bible in the person of Jesus Christ makes that request of us everyday---He knocks at the door, sees our bags, and asks us to give it to Him.

 

What if our spiritual baggage was visible---if our heart luggage was as visible as curb luggage.Wouldnít we see a lot of suitcases of guilt?Weariness, self-reliance, disappointment-they all pull us down, but guilt consumes.

 

In Matthew 10:26 Jesus makes a very interesting statement.Do not be afraid . . . There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known . . . on the surface seem like panic words not peaceful words . . . who wants their private sins published?NobodyÖbut the Bible tells us itís going to happen.

Hebrews 4:13- Nothing in all creation is hidden from Godís sight.Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Matthew 12:36- But I tell you men will give an account on the day of judgment of every careless word they have spoken.

I Corinthians 4:5- He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of menís hearts!

These verses conjure up emotions of shame, embarrassment, humiliation - - - so why does Jesus point to the day of revelation and say=take courage?The answer is found in Romans 2:16.This will take place on the day when God will judge menís secrets through Jesus Christ.Jesus is the screen through which God looks when he judges our lives.Listen to another set of verses, promises really, that put the last verses in perspective:

Romans 8:1-Therefore, there is now no condemnationÖ

Hebrews 8:12- I will remember their sins no more . . .

Colossians 3:3- For we died, and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.

 

Jesus said, Come to me . . . rest!When we surrender our burdensome sacks, we donít just let go of something---we gain something.Itís an exchange.We gain gratitude, we gain grace, we gain the joy of His peace, power, and purpose for our lives.

(End of Part II)

 

The landfill is tall with trash. By the time they reach the hill, the line to the top is long.Hundreds walk ahead of them.All wait in silence, stunned by what they hear --- a scream, a pain-pierced roar that hangs in the air for moments, interrupted only by a groan.Then the scream again.His scream.

As they draw nearer, they know why.He kneels before each, gesturing toward the sack, offering a request then a prayer.May I have it?And may you never feel it again.The he bows his head and lifts the sack, emptying the contents on himself.The selfishness of all, the bitterness of the angry, the possessiveness of the insecure.He feels what they felt---as if he had lied or cheated or cursed or . . .Upon her turn, the woman pauses.Hesitates.He reaches for the trash and takes it from her.You canít live with this, he explains, you werenít made to.With head down he empties her shame upon his shoulders.Then looking toward the heavens with tear flooded eyes, he screams, ďIím sorryĒ . . . But you did nothing, she cries.Still he sobs as she sobbed into her pillow a hundred times.Thatís when she realizes that his cry is hers and her shame, now His!With her thumb she touches his cheek and for the first time in a long, long, time, she has no trash to carry.With the others she stands at the base of the hill and watches as he is buried under the trash of their lives.For some time he moans.Then nothing.Just silence.

 

Ever notice that everyone in your house walks by the trash can . . . it can be overflowing, but itís like nobody sees it!Denial does not remove the trash.Admitting that there is trash is the first step toward disposal.

 

Come with me one last time this month to the hill of Calvary . . . the place of the skull . . . the trash heap just outside Jerusalem where garbage continually burned and where criminals were crucified, and where Jesus was crucified.Weíve been here before.Watch as the soldiers shove the Carpenter to the ground and pull his shoulders out of socket and stretch his arms against the beams to match to holes.One presses a knee against his forearm and a spike against his hand.Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it.

Could Jesus have stopped him.Oh my goodness yes!With a flex of the biceps, a clench of his fists, he could have sent him flying. Wasnít this the same hand that calmed the storm, cleansed the temple, called Lazarus from the dead?But the fist doesnít clench.

The crowd at the cross concluded that the purpose of the pounding was to skewer the hands of Christ to the beam.But they were only half right.What they couldnít see, Jesus could, heaven could, we can.

Through the eyes of Scripture we see, Colossians 2:14- He canceled the record that contained the charges against us.He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christís cross. He took out the trash!

What kept Jesus from resisting?Our sin did. He knew the price of those sins was death.He knew the source of those sins was you.And he in love and holiness colliding together, couldnít bear the thought of eternity without you, so he chose the nails.The hand squeezing the handle of the hammer was not really a Roman centurion.The force behind the hammer was not really an angry mob.The verdict behind the death was not really decided by jealous religious leaders or a confused Pilate.Jesus chose the nails.So the hands of Jesus opened up.As Max Lucado puts it, had the soldiers hesitated, Jesus himself would have swung the hammer.He knew how, he was no stranger to nails.

In the Passion movie, Mel Gibson made sure it was him who swung the hammer, but in a real sense it was Jesus who did.The same hand that calms storms want to bring peace to our souls.The same hand that cleansed the temple wants to clean our hearts.And the hand is the hand of God himself. God does more than forgive our sins, our mistakes, our emptiness---he removes them!

What can we leave at the cross?Our trash.Because on a garbage heap outside of Jerusalem, Jesus took it all.

 

The people sit among the wrecked cars and papers and discarded stoves and wonder who this man is and what he has done.Like mourners at a wake they linger.Some share stories, others say nothing.All cast occasional glances at the landfill.It feels odd, loitering at the garbage heap, but it would feel even stranger to leave.So they stay.Through the night and into the next day and the darkness of another night.A kinship connects them, a kinship through the trashman.Some doze, others build fires, but by early morning of the third day most are asleep.They almost miss the moment.It is the young girl, the girl who let go of rage who sees it.She doesnít trust her eyes at first but when she looks again, she knows its for real.His words are soft, intended for no one really---Heís standing.Then aloud, for her friend, Heís standing.Then louder for all, Heís standing!She turns, they all turn. They see him silhouetted against a golden sun.

Standing indeed!

 

Our story began with cumbersome trash bags in hand and closed with a trashman covered in trash.It all seemed to end there as he lay buried beneath the mess.The people are free, but the trashman is dead.Fade to black.Roll the credits.But suddenly the trashman rises.Standing tall.Unencumbered.Free!Christ has risen!Christ has risen indeed!By his death we are set free from the penalty of sin.By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, we are being set free from the power of sin, and someday we will be home, free from the very presence of sin.

This is not our forever house.It will do for the time being, but there is nothing like the moment we walk through the door of our new home!

He has taken our trash, but for now, one bag remains.Not guilt, it was dropped at the cross.Not fear, it was left of the grace. The only lingering luggage that we still have to carry is this God-given longing for home.And when we see him, we will set it down.Just as a soldier drops his duffel bag to greet his wife at the airport when returning home, we will drop that last bag.Maybe there will be laughter, applause, who knows exactly.But he will greet us with these incredible words- Welcome Home!Enjoy!And with scarred hand the Bible says he will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

 

Is it time to take out your trash?Jesus said, Come unto me . . . Jesus appeals to us through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension to bring to Him those things that weigh us down.We werenít made to live with sin, we were made to be set free.We think we can handle it (sin) for a time, but its way too heavy---sins, worries, stuffóitís too much.Jesus wants it all.Its time to take our bags to the cross.Friday came. Trash day! Letís pray!

 

In your update this morning, you will find a blank sheet of paper.Our worship team is going to come and sing a first song. . . as they do, I am going to invite you to remain seated and write on that blank sheet whatever you need to write.Here, maybe for the first time itís all coming together, what Jesus did---you want to give your life to Him---you might want to simply write-ďAll of it. . . ďHere as a believer, aware of stuff that has slipped in, need to renew that growth process of putting off, being renewed, and putting on (being filled)---write some of those specifics down.And then as we come to the second song, I invite you to stand and sing, to crumble up your paper, take it to the cross and throw it in the trash.If I werenít a little concerned about what the fire marshall might say, Iíd set it on fire so that we could literally see it burned up---smell the smoke.Again for some, this might be a joyous first time exchange.For others a new step of growth in this repeated process of putting off, being renewed, and putting on.But wonít you sit and write, and then stand and let it go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING OUT THE TRASH (introduction)

 

Itís not that I donít want to be more mechanical . . . I just donít get it!Patiently tell me, but in a few minutes Iím back with a silly look on my face, muttering, uh,could you show me again how you did that.

The last four weeks we have been looking at Jesus, the main character in the passion of the Christ.Incredibly discovered - - -

That He is indeed for real, that he is the Way . . . and he can back it up - - - not a liar, lunatic, Lord!

Discovered that he died for us . . .sin entered the world one man, Adam---the penalty of sin reversed for all the world through one God man, Jesus.

Discovered the resurrection valid---evidence overwhelming . . . Jesus now at the right hand of the Father, continuously acting on our behalf , for all who have exchanged our life for His, to renew us to be more and more what we were wired to be!

Weíve seen that there are basically only three approaches to life----

  • Eat, drink, be merry, pursue . . . hard as you can
  • Try hard to be good, and hopeÖ.
  • Begin a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ . . .

Discovered the first two donít hold up---emotionally, intellectually, spiritually---holes all through them----that a relationship with Christ, though not necessarily an easy life, is the only life that makes sense and brings peace and joy!

 

But its possible that your response to this point has been a little like my response to mechanics - - - I get it, I see it I mean but . . . Remind me again . . . and, what do I do now again, if this is all true?

 

Once we have come to Christ, there is a process of growth that is outlined in the NT that we need to get a handle on . . . process is found using similar words and phrases in many places, but perhaps the most concise is Ephesians 4:17-24Ö Three steps- 1. put off†† 2.be renewed3. put on

What do I put off?The garbage that sneaks in - - - (much of that is summarized in 25-32, footholds)

What does renew mean?Develop a biblical perspective about that garbage, recognize it

Why put on (be filled)---if donít, garbage has a way of coming back and multiplyingÖ

This process will be a part of the rest of your Christian life, garbage always want to sneak in . . . but as we grow . . .less garbage, and we will take it out regularly (I John 1:9)-live a blameless life, unaffected by the accusations of the enemy!

 

Next week- we return to our study of the letters of Peter (our focus will return to being renewed) . . . But today, want to address the step of putting off from one last angle---maybe today is the day you will say, ďHey I get it.Ē