Summary: Wouldn't it be horrible to have to keep all our trash and haul it around for ourselves?
“Jesus 101: Nothing But Trash”
Every Thursday evening Barb and I pull trash duty – we put all our trash and garbage in the big brown container and place it by the street. Friday, trash haulers come by and carry it all away to a place designed to dispose of nothing but trash. Isn’t that great? Wouldn’t it be horrible to have to keep all the trash and garbage bags, and haul them around for ourselves?
Speaking of trash – just WHAT’S IN YOUR TRASH BAG? What are you lugging around with you? Isaiah (4a) talked about trash – he labelled it infirmities and sorrows. Are you hauling around some INFIRMITIES? Where are you weak and struggling in body, mind, or spirit? Perhaps you or a loved one is ill, fighting disease or bodily decay, and just can’t seem to get on top of it. Or maybe the doctor has said those dreadful words, “It’s terminal”, or “There’s nothing more I can do.” Maybe the problems keep mounting and the solutions are hidden from your view. It might be that your handicap has you down and discouragement has set in. It could be that doubts have slipped into your mind and you’re wrestling with issues of faith. Possibly your sexual desires are stronger than ever and you’re afraid you might give in – or perhaps you already have. Maybe it’s anger that keeps building up inside, or has already burst forth and caused lots of damage. It might even be that a burning desire for revenge now possesses you. Or is it a deepening sense of shame for something you’ve done? Whoever you are, you have come this morning with some infirmity – probably more than one. It’s nothing but trash you carry around with you. It’s important to identify and acknowledge it.
Maybe your trash bag includes some SORROWS? Many of us carry around regrets over someone we’ve hurt, mistakes we’ve made, damage we’ve done, or opportunities we’ve missed. Or it could be those hastily spoken words that caused pain for others. Maybe you’re sorrowful over broken relationships – some of your own or perhaps of a loved one. It might be you’re disappointed in yourself for what you’ve become, or failed to become – or for how you’ve behaved, or failed to behave. Some of you are in the throes of loneliness and long for companionship or friendship – just some constant, supportive, loving presence in your life. Or you‘ve lost your job and that loss overwhelms you. You may be sorrowing over the loss of a loved one, someone so precious to you. You miss them more than ever. Your grief, the pain of loss and pangs of emptiness, never go away, or even lessen; you’ve begun to suspect that maybe time doesn’t always heal. Whoever you are, you have come this morning with some sorrow. It’s nothing but trash you carry around with you. It’s important to identify and acknowledge it.
Isaiah (5a) also some of our trash is transgressions and iniquities. TRANSGRESSIONS are actions we have taken that broke God’s law. One of the ancient prayers of the Church seeks forgiveness for not doing what we ought to do and doing what we ought not to do. It’s reminiscent of Paul, who wrote (Rom. 7:14-20 MSG): “I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself--after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” It’s nothing but trash – and it’s important to identify and acknowledge it.
And then there are our INIQUITIES. An iniquity is a failure to do our duty. Have you loved God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself? Isaiah said an emphatic, “NO!” (6): “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; …” Being a non-sheep culture, it’s hard to feel the brunt of Isaiah’s words. He calls us sheep. I remind you that this is not a compliment. Sheep are basically stupid, dumb, and very stubborn. They smell and are susceptible to illness, disease, and parasites. They are timid and helpless, and have a mob mentality – they go and do as the flock goes and does. And sheep are prone to wander and get lost. Isaiah claims we are like them! The problem is that we refuse to admit it. We refuse to believe the report that we need a shepherd, that we need a Savior. Like the ostrich burying its head in the sand, we hide our faces from God assuming that then He can’t see us, and that, if we don’t see Him, we won’t feel so guilty. But our iniquities are nothing but trash – and it’s time to identify and acknowledge it.