Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Stinking Irony.
I took a trip this past week that traversed seven states to purchase a motorcycle, and yes before anyone asks…it was still a good deal when I included the gas it took to go get it. However, this podcast isn’t about motorcycles or the price of gas though I am sure I could make some connection between those things and some biblical truth. This episode is about something I stepped on while stopping at one of the many rest stops I visited on my trip. As I walked along one of the concrete sidewalks that led to the bathrooms at one particular location, I stepped on a round metal lid placed in the concrete. Cast into the iron lid were the words “Sanitary Sewer”. I have seen these words many times in the past. Prior to entering full-time ministry I worked for a heavy equipment construction company that placed many of those particular lids in sidewalks and streets during my tenure there.
For those of you who may not know there are two kinds of sewer lines underground. There are “Storm Sewers” which are conduits made of concrete, metal or plastic which convey rainwater runoff from impermeable surfaces like buildings, parking lots and roadways, ultimately to places where it can be introduced safely into natural bodies of water. The other kind of sewer lines are called “Sanitary Sewers” and they are anything but…sanitary. These are the lines that carry the sewage from our sinks, showers and toilets to the waste water treatment plant. When I was in the business of installing new portions of these so called “Sanitary Sewer” lines to existing infrastructure I was always somewhat amused by the name stamped into the manhole covers. “Sanitary sewer” just seemed like such an oxymoron to me. It is a “Stinking Irony” indeed.
As I stepped on that manhole last week and read those words cast in iron, “Sanitary Sewer” it made me think of a few verses I had been reading recently in my devotional time. In his Epistle, James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote about a “Stinking Irony” that we all need to be aware of lest we find ourselves reeking of that very condition. In James 3:7-11 we read the following from the New King James Version. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? I also really like the way Dr. Tim Jennings put it in his paraphrase The Remedy there it says; 7Humans have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea,8but no one can make their words harmless. The mouth speaks venomous words, expressing the chaos and evil within the heart.9One moment we praise God our Father, and the very next moment we curse the very men and women created in his image.10Think about it: Out of the same mouth come both praises and curses. My brothers and sisters, this is wrong, and it must stop.11Does a spring bring forth fresh water one moment and sewage the next?
Last week in this podcast I eluded to what I am talking about today. If we are not ever vigilant about the condition of our hearts, we risk acting out of selfishness. When you mix selfishness with the most difficult thing in all humanity to control…the tongue…the risk of stinking irony rises dramatically. James says that 9One moment we praise God our Father, and the very next moment we curse the very men and women created in his image. This can happen in so many ways and seemingly in the blink of an eye. As I noted last week we can be singing along to the Christian radio station in the car one minute and be yelling at the person who so irreverently cut us off in traffic the next. While that may be an easy one for many people to relate to, it certainly isn’t the only example. What about when we smile and say “Sure thing boss!” to our employer and then take every available opportunity to tell our co-workers what a jerk the boss is? How about spending Sunday morning in quote-unquote “Worship” and then gossiping all the way home about others in church and all of the inconsistencies we perceive to exist in their lives? How about the way we use our moral high ground as Christians to justify verbally crucifying our political opponents? The fact of the matter is that these examples I have noted simply scratch the surface of all of the ways we come up with to fulfill the verse above and praise God out of one side of our mouth while we curse His creation out of the other.
I think James was right to ask us to consider this uncomfortable truth about our “Stinking Irony”.10Think about it: Out of the same mouth come both praises and curses. My brothers and sisters, this is wrong, and it must stop.11Does a spring bring forth fresh water one moment and sewage the next? None of us would be willing to go down into a sewer manhole, fill a cup and drink its contents. No one among us would consider it no matter how sanitary the manhole lid said it was. You can’t get fresh water from a sewer. Nor can pure water come from a place that allows even a little bit of sewage in. If I had a 5 gallon bucket of water and added only one cup of raw sewage into it…would you drink it? I hope not. Because even a little sewage allowed into the water contaminates the whole bucket.
What can help us overcome allowing sewage to contaminate our spring meant only to produce fresh water? Conforming to the image of Christ. One of the things we know about Jesus is that though He was reviled…He reviled not. That means that though he had every justification in the world for lashing out, for having bad things to say about His own stinking creation beating, torturing and finally executing their own Creator, (Talk about stinking irony) He didn’t do it. Jesus didn’t think or act selfishly, He allowed His outward thinking to selflessly lead Him to the cross. The bible says that for the joy set before Him, in other words for the opportunity to pay for our sin once and for all and to be able to set all of His creation right again, He endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)
So now, removing the sewage from the stream where only fresh, clean, clear water is supposed to flow…Go Be Awesome!