Wed, Feb 14, 2018

Soul Repair

Psalm 51:1-17 by Doug Gunkelman

We live in a "throwaway" culture.

We throw away just about everything.

Not that we haven't noticed. We've been using this expression since LIFE magazine published an article in 1955 about a new phenomenon that emerged in the prosperity of the 1950s. "Throwaway Living" the article was called.

Instead of blowing our noses using washable handkerchiefs (as did our eco-friendly grandparents), we use tissues and throw them away.

We diaper babies' bottoms, and then throw them away -- the diapers, not the bottoms.

We buy a pair of shoes and throw them away.

We buy water packaged in plastic bottles, drink the water -- and throw the bottles away.

Almost everything we purchase comes in what many call excessive packaging which ... is thrown away.

We buy small and large appliances and when they break down we buy new ones and throw away the old ones.

We buy TVs and throw them away.

In an era long past, small shops existed to repair items that consumers were then loath to throw away. Used to be that a small repair shop could provide a modest income. You could get your TVs, toasters, radios and irons repaired for a small charge and they were good to go.

The archetype for such small businesses is Emmett's Fix-It Shop in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, as depicted on the 1960s television series "The Andy Griffith Show." Emmett Clark fixed clocks, lamps, radios and more.

These shops, for the most part, have disappeared.

This is why an organization called Repair Cafés is so interesting.

Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they're all about repairing things (together). At a Repair Café, you'll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need on clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances and toys. You'll also find expert volunteers with repair skills in all kinds of fields.

According to their website, "Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It's an ongoing learning process. If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else's repair job. You can also get inspired at the reading table -- by leafing through books on repairs and DIY. There are over 1,300 Repair Cafés worldwide.

We throw away more than clocks, lamps and diapers these days.

We also throw away friendships, values, traditions, manners, decency and common sense. Some might say that we too often throw away our souls in pursuit of some elusive dream we hold dear. We cast aside the spiritual component of our lives thinking, perhaps, that we will focus on spirituality later.

Then, one morning, we wake up wondering who we are and where we've been and where our life has taken us. "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans," according to John Lennon.

Whatever you want to call it, we sense down deep that something is wrong. Something is broken. Something is in desperate need of fixing.

In this psalm, we see David taking his sorry soul to God's repair café.

David -- this towering and impressive figure of the Old Testament, the greatest king in Israel's history, the monarch who reigned at the height of Israel's glory -- had developed a throwaway mentality.

  • He threw away the laws of God.
  • He threw away the sanctity of the marriage bond.
  • He threw away his self-respect.
  • He threw away a woman's honor and reputation.
  • He threw away a man's life -- the husband, Uriah.
  • He recklessly threw away and abandoned the person God called him to be, the person the ancient Samuel had anointed when David was but a lad tending sheep, writing poems and playing the lyre.

Here in Psalm 51 is a man ruined, a man whose life is in tatters, a man who is utterly lost.

His spirit is broken. His soul is wounded. He is sick and distressed.

He's been given a diagnosis. He knows the disease. He knows who he really is. It's not pretty.

And it nauseates him. It should.

He lied. He raped the neighbor lady. He ordered the murder of her husband. He tried to cover up the crime. To say he abused his authority and position is a gross understatement.

He needs relief. He is in a downward spiral of destruction. He needs redemption. He needs something!

He needs to be fixed, and so he goes to God, the Great Fixer, the Great Repairer of Souls, the Great Weaver of Broken Threads.

David knows a lot about God, and right now the most important thing he knows about God is that God doesn't throw away things. He knows that "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. … He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities" (103:8, 10). That's why he can pray, "Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me" (v. 11).

God will not cast us away from the divine presence. When we feel far from God, it is not because God has moved.

We're the ones who have moved. It could be because we have had a "throwaway God," a God to whom we listen when it's convenient, a God to whom we pray only when in distress, a God who has become largely irrelevant because we really don't apply the knowledge of God to our day-to-day lives.

God does not cast us away. God repairs and redeems. "For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 30:17, ESV).

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten" (Joel 2:25-26, ESV).

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18, ESV).

The big fix is mediated from God to us by Jesus Christ: "In whom we have redemption ... the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7 KJV).

Repair. This is what God does. We should take our sorry souls to God's Repair Café because God knows how to make things new!

The cost of a repair job at God's Fix-It Shop?

Nothing really.

But you do need to know that something's broken.

There's no point stopping by God's Repair Café just to say, "Hey, I'm good," and then go on your way.

Notice David's attitude. He knows he needs some treatment. "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me" (vv. 2-3).

Acknowledging the problem is a key factor, and this psalm is full of it. "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment" (v. 4). David gets even more dramatic, "Indeed, I was born guilty" (v. 5).

Submitting to treatment is also important. David asks for specific remedies.

  • He wants the mercy treatment and some blotting done (v. 1).
  • He also asks for a wash and cleansing session (v. 2).
  • He wants to do a purge (v. 5).
  • He wants the complete restoration treatment (v. 12).
  • Finally, he wants a new heart, which is the key part of the treatment. The old heart, the old engine, the old nature -- whatever you call it -- is beyond repair. David asks for a replacement. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me" (v. 10). Well, God can do this. The apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).

If there is a cost, this is it: acknowledging that we need help, and accepting the help that is offered. "The sacrifice [or cost] acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (v. 17).

Let's remember that David's remorse was all about his own brokenness, not someone else's.

God is in the repair business; we're not. At least, we are not asked to go around fixing people. This is dangerous stuff. People stay in abusive relationships believing they can fix the abuser. No, they can't.

Some people think other people need to be "fixed." What they really mean is that they disapprove of their behavior.

Some people don't want to be fixed, don't need to be fixed and certainly not by you!

Going to God's Repair Café is personal. This is about our recognition of our own brokenness -- not someone else's.

We begin our observance of Lent with Ash Wednesday. This is a day of penitence, and this is a penitential season. The psalm reading is a penitential psalm, one of seven in the Psalter. This service can be considered a sort of Repair Café experience. We come together to do our private business with God, but we do so together, with the support and encouragement of others.

God is a great healer. There is nothing and no one God cannot restore.