1-800-GOT JUNK? Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-28 6/3/2018
Well, it’s that time of year. And last weekend was the official start for this fair-weather activity. Oh, you didn’t hear anything mentioned about its starting in the headlines of the local papers, nor was it reported on any national or local newscasts.
- Not a word from Fox News or CNN or Huff Post. No tweets!
- No ribbon-cutting ceremonies or political blaming.
And yet, this activity shows real American spirit; and many feel this activity is vital not only to our way of life, but also to Western civilization as we know it.
I’m talking about the Garage Sale.
That open air, private enterprise that has become the foundation and the driving force for many people’s purpose in life – a driving force for dreams; a driving force for bargains. A driving force to appear on the Antiques Road Show with that little glass bowl that you paid $5 for only to find that it is Waterford Crystal and was once used by Sir Winston Churchill as an ash tray and is now worth @$20,000.
The garage sale is a time to find out what your neighbor has been hiding or hoarding all these years; what kind of “stuff” they have. One of the rules of garage sales is that you never buy from your neighbor because it is ill-mannered to sell that item at your own garage sale the following year, which leaves you with only the option of sneaking the item out to the dump under the cover of night; or selling it at a friend’s garage sale in another county, state, or even better another country.
And of course we live with the time-honored phrase, “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure” a phrase which I personally never found to be true. I have found that in my case another person’s junk is now my junk.
And what do you do with the leftover junk from your latest garage sale? Try to sell it again next time, or try to take the stuff to the dump? You could always call 1-800-GOT JUNK, a Vancouver, British Columbia – based company which was started by Brian Scudamore in 1989 when he graduated from college.
Beginning with only $700 and a beat-up old pick up truck the company now has 96 franchisees nationwide, are in 47 of North America’s top 50 cities, and will come and pick up your household junk for disposal or recycling. They are now the largest junk removing company in the U.S. & Canada.
Of course, your local charities might take that junk off your hands, too, but regardless of who does the hauling, we all have junk we need to get rid of in our lives and we’ll usually have no problem allowing or even paying someone else to do the dirty work.
Most of us, if we’re honest, can deal with a little clutter in our homes — that pile of once read National Geographic Magazines under the basement stairs, a messy work-bench, a garage with shelves of paint cans that haven’t been touched since the Reagan administration. It’s usually only at a crisis point that we finally decide to clean it all up, whether it’s because of a personal disaster, a move, company coming over, or the odd smell that seems to permeate our living space. Otherwise, we’ll get completely buried in it.
As humans we tend to gather “junk” in all aspects of our lives, including the physical and the mental parts of us. But what about our spiritual lives? When spiritual junk has accumulated in our lives whom do you call?
In today’s reading from Romans the apostle Paul recognized that human life, without exception, is full of life-choking piles of sin-soaked stuff. “There is no one who is righteous, not even one,” Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3:10 (quoting Psalms 14 and 53) and then stated emphatically that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Sounds disheartening.
It is well known that the word for sin, hamartia, evokes the image of an archer aiming at a target in the distance. The word “sin” literally means, “missing the mark.”
Shots are fired, but the arrows miss — not to the left or the right, not too high or too low, but drop harmlessly well short of the target. We are arrow collectors. We hoard these misbegotten adventures. They pile up, cluttering our lives.
Sin limits our free movement, confines us to the corners and margins of life, cuts us off from others and eventually begins to crush our very spirits. We can find ourselves slowly dying a spiritual death in the midst of this God-awful mess. Here we encounter Romans 1:16-17. And there is good news.
That good news is the “power of God.” The Greek word here is “Dunamis.” “Dunamis” is the root word for dynamite. The power of God is explosive.
It’s a well-known fact that the junk in a lot of our homes will not disappear unless it’s vaporized in a mythical blast of some sort. It takes similar power to achieve the end that Paul describes as “salvation.”
When God’s power was applied, it was to save us.
This can be problematic today for Christians living in a culture that does not believe it needs to be redeemed – made new. Yet one doesn’t have to look too closely to realize that at every level of life, there are institutions, governments, ideas, cultures, programs and practices — and people themselves, who need to be redeemed; made new; that is to say, people, places and things who need to be made useable, useful and whole again.
God’s power has been given to this end. God power has been applied to empower you to live clutter-free in a moral and spiritual junk-free zone.
This didn’t just happen. It was messy. Someone got blood all over himself in the process. “[We] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (3:24-25). The cost to God? The Cross – a bloody mess.
The cost to us? Nothing – consider it a gift. Take God’s word for it. It’s a gift.
This realization that salvation is for those who accept it by faith without truly understanding how it works was the inspiration for the reforming impulse of Martin Luther’s work during the Reformation of the early 16th century.
When Luther read in Romans 1:17 that Paul, citing the O.T. book of Habakkuk said the just shall live by faith, Luther formulated his doctrine of justification by faith — an idea that went off like a bomb in the church at that time, and appeared to mess things up, not clean things up.
Now we are familiar with the term and idea of “justify.” We use the word “justify” all the time. We use it to give reason for decisions that we make or allow to be made on the national, local or personal level.
The word means to “to show to be just or right.” We justify going to garage sales because of the bargains that we might find on something that we weren’t truly looking for.
Another more common example involves formatting a page when working in a document on the computer. You must choose a justification.
Usually the computer will automatically choose to align your page to the left creating your left margin. But the user can override that and choose right justification, center justification or full justification.
The question for us today is: “How do you want your page lined up for God?”
In & through Jesus Christ, we are lined up perfectly. Not because we got it right, but because in Jesus Christ, our default settings have been changed from ragged, hopelessly confused, and useless, to full and complete justification – fully lined up with God’s intents and purposes.
We are forgiven, cleaned up, scoured, and brightened when we simply put our faith in God’s ability to do the work through Jesus Christ. Our spiritual lives can be made “like new” through the power of God’s good news of grace.
But while we can be given a new and more open space to live out God’s grace, it’s also important for us to continually fight the clutter that ultimately wants to creep back into our lives.
No matter what your age, justification isn’t a license for spiritual laziness, letting all that sinful junk pile up once again until a bad smell begins to permeate or we have run out of room to move around. Rather, it’s an opportunity for us to grow forward in faith — and that requires constant maintenance on our part in cooperation with Jesus Christ.
Experts on household organization say that one of the best ways to keep clutter from accumulating in your home is to go through a different room of the house each day and throw out or recycle something that’s not needed. The thinking is that if you get rid of something unnecessary, you make more room for what’s really important.
That’s great advice for our spiritual lives, too.
How would your life and your relationship with God improve if you spent a little time each day intentionally throwing away negative thoughts, attitudes, activities, temptations — all those sin-producing things which tend to pile up on us? How about throwing away our prejudices? Or our gossiping tendencies?
One way of doing this, according to organizational experts, is to do a daily “brain dump”
- To put on paper all the thoughts, worries, lusts, joys, concerns and even good things that occupy your mind during the day.
- Then circle the items on your paper that you can take action on, want to take action on, and items that you have control over.
All the negativity, sadness, fears, frustrations, anger, the things you have no control over, let them go, repeating the verse, ‘Renew a right spirit within me’ from Psalm 51:10.
And once you’re done, don’t forget to put that paper in the recycling bin.
Whatever mess you’ve made, know that God is ready, willing and able to take on the job of getting rid of that junk.
Got junk? I say call 1-800-Romans1.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, June 2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “06-03-18 Sermon” name of the sermon.