Summary: We all know what regular maintenance in our Christian lives should look like. What makes it so hard?
SERMON: MY SEDIMENTS EXACTLY
1. Case Study: What caused the Johnstown flood?
2. What makes maintenance hard?
a. Purging involves loss (hyssop)
b. Washing involves vulnerability
c. Acknowledgement means losing control
3. How do we do it?
a. The Word (Eph 5:26)
b. Prayer (What is this Psalm anyway?)
c. The Levees of Life
And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word,
Title: My Sediments Exactly
Text: Psalm 51: 7 - 12
MP: We must let God’s cleansing maintenance take away even the things we might miss, in order to retain the joy of our salvation
It was a spectacular failure, but like so many things, it had such an ordinary cause.
Up not too far from Pittsburgh back in the 1800s there used to be a lake – Lake Connemaugh. The rich and wealthy of the day – everybody from Andrew Mellon to Andrew Carnegie – used to escape the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh by going to their private club – the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club. It was a nice enough lake – about 2 miles long and a mile across, 60 feet deep. At the far end of the River, there was an earthen dam that was more than 70 years old.
And then, on May 28th, 1889, it started raining. Within three days, the lake started overflowing that earthen dam, and within seconds, 20 million tons of water was barreling down the valley at 40 miles per hour. Along its way, it consumed rocks and trees and horses and debris … and then buildings and people and in less than a few minutes, over four square miles of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Over 2200 people were gone in the blink of an eye. The damage was so great that rescue crews couldn’t even get in for several days. As far as dam failures go, it was spectacular.
But even great failures – blowouts – usually have such ordinary causes. When the South Fork dam was constructed back in the 1830s by the Army Corps of Engineers, it was engineered very well. It was an earthen dam to be sure – but the engineers had taken precautions to ensure its integrity. As long as water was kept from overflowing the dam, it would hold.
Cast iron pipes had been fitted to ensure drainage – although in the course of time it would turn out that an unknowing owner had simply sold them away for scrap. A spillway had been carefully graded to the right of the dam where water would go rather than overtop the earth – but in the late 1880s, nobody was keeping it up. Indeed, when the studies were complete, final blame didn’t go to some terrorist or an evil man – it was just the fault of a grounds man who hadn’t kept up with the cleaning.
In my life, I like to avoid the massive failures – the blowouts. And to do that, I need regular cleaning. But let’s face it – I’m a guy. I don’t like words like “maintenance” and “care.” I want some immediate inoculation that keeps me good – a one-time shot of God to keep me through my whole life. But that’s not how blowouts work, and it’s not even how God works. If we would avoid the blowouts, we need to be washed.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular failures in the Bible is that of King David. You know the young boy David, picking up five little stones in his sling and killing Goliath. And you know that he was a poet, composing more of the psalms than anyone else. But even he had his spectacular blowouts and even for him they had such an ordinary cause. It started off so simply – he was tired and chose one season not to accompany his men out to fight. And then, he chose to let his eye linger just a bit too long when he noticed and ordinary woman taking an ordinary bath. But he lingered. And then he thought. And before you knew it, he was sending orders to have one of best soldiers killed, just to cover up a momentary indiscretion. Indeed, it took a prophet of the Lord to reveal the extent of his wickedness. But to David’s credit, he loved God – he desired the joy of his salvation even more than his sin. And so he sat down to write these words that we read this morning in Psalm 51.