Spring Cleaning For the Christian Soul

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

5th Sunday in Lent
April 3, 2022

Scriptures – Joshua 5:9-12 and 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21

During your lifetimes, if you move and change homes often, then you have no need for spring cleaning.  This is because moving is such a hassle, you don’t want to pack and unpack more items than you absolutely need.   And if you try to pack and unpack those items yourself, and if you actually move your own stuff, then you have no need for spring cleaning either.

For the rest of us, regular spring cleaning is a good idea.

We all know how our closets, attics, garages, cupboards, cabinets, and various hide-holes in and around our homes can fill up quickly with all manner of stuff, junk, and unrecognizable things.  

“Honey!  Come here and tell me what THIS is!”

Ever had to yell that in your home?

You know what I mean…and you know who you are…

Since spring is upon us, this is a timely sermon: 

spring cleaning for the Christian soul.  

What kinds of things do we need to regularly get rid of?

Let’s start with those things we no longer need.

When Moses first led the ancient Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and toward freedom, they needed some help.  Because Pharoah made them leave so quickly, there probably wasn’t time to pack enough provisions for 40 years of wandering in the desert.  They needed help, or they would all die in the desert.

So, the Lord provided manna every single morning for 40 years.  Each day, the Israelites gathered it and had plenty for that day.  Every sixth day, they gathered twice as much so they had plenty for that day and the Sabbath day too.  Whatever manna was, it was good and sustained those wandering Israelites.

Yet, as soon as they entered the Promised Land, a land “flowing with milk and honey,” the manna stopped appearing; the Israelites were now in a prosperous land, a land rich with possibilities, a land that became their ancestral home.  And this land provided plenty for them to eat.  Not only that, but those Israelites were fully and completely able to celebrate their second Passover using foods in their new home, the Promised Land.  (The first one was back in Egypt.)

In other words, the Israelites had no need for daily manna rations, so the Lord stopped providing it.  

What do we continue holding onto that we can get rid of?  Perhaps it’s a really old pair of shoes in the back of our closet, or a t-shirt that has seen better days and is no longer fit to even work in the yard, or a pasta maker in the kitchen that has never been used because the boxes and bags of pasta in the store are pretty good.

What else can we get rid of, Christians?

How about old grudges?  What are you holding onto that needs to be dropped?  What argument, yelling match, quarrel, public insult, or shameful act are you still carrying in your heart?  And consider this: are you the only one still carrying it?

Get rid of it, Christians.  Talk to someone.  Pray for the Lord about it and beg forgiveness.  Write it down and then burn it in your fireplace.  Whatever you need to do…do it.

Next, did you notice in the passage from the book of Joshua where the Lord told his people, “I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.”  Did you skip over that, or did it grab your attention?

This points to the second part of spring cleaning: rolling away your own disgrace.  The other word that is commonly used in this passage is “reproach.”

This means the embarrassment that many often carry with them about many things: who you are, where you are from, your family reputation, an old nickname, one time when you made a fool of yourself, whatever it might be that haunts your dreams and makes you feel bad TODAY (despite the fact that often these things happened long ago).  Nothing brings us down more quickly than the reproach, derision, or laughter that we often experience.  

It can make us feel worthless; when that begins to invade and occupy our thoughts, it doesn’t take much before Christians will start to believe that Jesus didn’t actually die for them…

…because they aren’t worth it.

This kind of thinking needs to be thrown out as quickly as you would toss out a sweater that had been eaten by moths in your closet.

This needs to be dumped as surely as you would rid yourself of old fast-food containers, cups, and napkins from under the seats of your car. 

This is about as worthless as outdated packages of food in your pantry, stale cookies from the cookie jar, or expired milk from your refrigerator.

Not only that, Christians, but consider this?  Are we always ready and willing to proclaim openly and courageously our faith in the face of the world’s mockery, scorn, derision, reproach…or indifference?  Such a great task requires a dedicated people and a dedicated effort.

So, whatever is getting in the way, clean it out, Christians!

Finally, there is almost always the old way vs. the new way… and some way that needs to go!

I would think most Christians have definitely learned this one, perhaps even the hard way.

If your storage places are full of elderly videotapes – and worse: if you don’t even have a working VHS player anymore, consider converting them to digital files.  Numerous services exist in which you just mail your tapes to them, and the service returns a digital copy that can be played on your computer, your iPad, your phone, or even your smart television.  Quit waiting for a miracle to come along to solve this problem for you.

In the same way, what are we doing about the problems that currently face our church?  We have been here for 10 years, waiting and hoping and preparing and praying for a new church; often, I have led those efforts.  But perhaps what we should be doing is blooming where we are currently planted.  This is a wonderful place, and we could all do more than we are currently doing…including me.

The VCR isn’t coming back into style.  In a similar way, we might want to recognize this and adjust to some new ideas…even if we aren’t 100% comfortable with them.

Paul admitted that he used to see people the “old way” meaning he saw them as human beings created by God.  But when Paul wrote today’s second letter to the Corinthians, he was saying that he now saw everyone in the “new way” – or according to the Spirit.

I wonder what that would look like…I don’t have a clear definition or example in my imagination.

Perhaps it would be making everyone here feel welcome, safe, comfortable, and able to relax when we are together.

Perhaps it would be a feeling that you don’t want to miss worship services because you might miss something important; I have been told that in the olden days of our church, this was exactly how the people of our church felt.

Perhaps it would mean acquiring a small amount of courage…courage that gives us the nerve to try some new things…courage to step forward and volunteer… courage to walk over and shake someone’s hand you don’t know yet…courage to sit in a new spot in the congregation just to see things from a different perspective…courage to do those things and perhaps even a few more.

In our own storage places in our own homes, we have something I call “evidence of our previous lives.”  By that, I mean those things that represent a time when we tried other things; perhaps they didn’t work (like the skates in my garage); perhaps they sounded like a good idea at the time (like buying my wife a BB gun to scare off the various “critters” who come into our backyard); perhaps they have no explanation…but you’ve still got them anyway.

I wonder if Paul would see those things as the “old way” or the “new way” or maybe even as nothing at all.

Let’s all remember how driven and intense Paul was.  I’ll bet he traveled light and focused on his work.

Whatever type of spring cleaning our Christian souls might need, it is a good thing to regularly examine ourselves and take some inventory.  Something might be there that needs refurbishing or throwing away.

Something that keeps us from fully loving and serving our Lord.  

Whatever it is, clean it out, Christians!