“Who Will Take the Garbage Out?”

Zechariah 5:5-11


            Who will take the garbage out?  That is a question which has been asked in households for years.  Obviously if your single that question doesn’t apply simply because you are the only trash-taker-outer there is.  But for married couples and those with kids … now that’s a whole different story.

            Even though I don’t really remember, I’m sure the chore of taking out the trash between my brother and I was one which was not met with unending shouts of joy.  I’m pretty confident that the chore was usually met with some arguing over who’s turn it was to take it out.  The question was probably asked numerous times … who will take the garbage out?

            When God’s kingdom comes, the garbage goes out.  This is what Zechariah teaches in our Old Testament lesson from chapter 5.  When God’s kingdom comes, the garbage goes out.  And if the garbage doesn’t go out, what happens then?  Life stinks!

            I came across a story told about a woman in Michigan who had a skunk in her cellar.  She called the police who said to open the cellar door, make a trail of breadcrumbs from the cellar to the backyard, and then wait for the skunk to follow the crumbs.  The next day the woman called the police and said, “Guess what? Instead of one skunk, now I have two skunks in my cellar!

            It’s true, sometimes life stinks.  A year ago, because of the Coronavirus, life really began to stink, and it still does to an extent today.  When things first started, there was this National State of Emergency and everything was essentially closed.  Shopping at Wal-Mart or any other store then … it was like having a new zoo in town.

            There’s a big difference between prudence and paranoia.  Prudence washes our hands.  Paranoia is overwhelmed with it all.  Prudence makes sure we do all we can.  Paranoia stockpiles and hoards it all.  Prudence trusts Jesus.  Paranoia trusts oneself.

            The goal for us is to move from paranoia to prudence; from cowering dread and high anxiety to a greater and more robust trust and confidence in our God; from fear to faith.  Who will take this garbage out?

            God will.  In Zechariah’s seventh vision God appoints two women who have wings like storks.  They lift up a basket, think of it as a garbage can, and they take it to the land of Shinar, which is just an ancient name for Babylon.  But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

            The vision begins with angel of the LORD showing Zechariah a basket.  Zechariah raise his eyes and sees a lead lid lifted up, and surprise, there’s a woman sitting inside the basket!  Just then, this woman called Wickedness tries to get out!  The angel of the LORD throws her back in and slams the lead lit shut.

            Wickedness is always trying to get out, it’s always trying to run loose.  The angel though, pushes Wickedness back into the garbage can.  The angel of the LORD shows his authority and power.  The angel of the LORD prevails!

            After that, the stork-like-women take the basket, the garbage can with Wickedness in it to Babylon.  “Operation Removal” is complete!  Wickedness has been removed.  End of story right?  Well my hunch is that you might have a question, or two, or three.

            Let’s being with this.  “Who is the angel?”  He’s the “angel of the LORD” who we talked about last week.  This angel of the LORD is Jesus before he was born of human flesh.  Notice how Jesus, even in the Old Testament, has complete authority over Wickedness.  Wickedness tries to get out of the basket and the angel slams the lead lid shut.

            Okay, so who’s this woman stuck in the flying garbage can?  Zechariah calls her “Wickedness.”  Wickedness stands for fear, for the 19th nervous breakdown, for the feeling that all is lost.

            What does this vision mean?  Fear is placed in the basket and lifted up by storks.  Storks are known for their strength and their ability to fly long distances.  So God returns fear to the land of Shinar/Babylon.  With all this, Zechariah says, in very vivid detail, that God takes the garbage out.

            Fear, finally, is what fills life with despair and make life stink.  This is why garbage is a good way to describe fear.  Think of it this way … have you ever needed to get somewhere and the vehicle you were driving had a governor on it that would only let you go so fast?  That governor prevents you from speeding.  It makes you go half the speed you want, it makes it feel like it is going to take forever to get where you need to go.  Fear is a lot like that governor.  Fear keeps us from going where God wants us to go.  Fear keeps us from faith.

            People in general are obsessed with two words … what if.  What if I fail?  What if I don’t have enough money?  What if I have to shut down my business?  What if I get sick?  What if I get into an accident?  What if I don’t make it into college?  What if I don’t get a job?  With this “What if?” question floating around in the back of our mind … our lives putt along at half speed, our lives are governed.

            Who will take our garbage out?  Who will deliver us from the despair fear brings into our lives?  God will.  God will, through his means of grace, which in Zechariah’s case are stork-like-women.  For us, God delivers us from the despair fear brings through the means of the Lord’s Supper which we are partaking of today. 

            Long before Zechariah’s vision, it was in God’s heart to take away everything that was rotten and rancid, everything that makes life stink.  It’s called the Day of Atonement.  On the Day of Atonement, the people would gather and the high priest would confess the sins of the people.  He would take those sins and by placing his hands on the head of Azazel and transfer the sins of the people to this garbage-goat.  The garbage-goat was then cast into the wilderness.  Psalm 103:12 says “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he {God} removed our transgressions from us.

            Standing in this same tradition, we heard earlier how Jesus once met a demon-possessed man whose name was Legion.  Jesus sends his demons into pigs who rush headlong into the Sea of Galilee.  One day Jesus will throw all the garbage, the devil, the false prophet, into the lake of fire and slam the lead lit shut.  But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again.

            Jesus, the angel of the LORD in Zechariah’s book, stepped out of the vision and into the garbage.  Golgotha was filled with rotting flesh and the stench of death.  Corpse hung on crosses for days, sometimes weeks, often consumed by birds and animals.

            1 John 4:18 say that “perfect love drives out fear.”  You are perfectly loved.  You are perfectly loved by God.  Perfect love forgives your past.  There’s no need to fear that.  Perfect love is directing you today.  There’s no need to fear that.  Perfect love has secured your future.  So there’s no need to fear that either.

            Shel Silverstein famously writes, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out! She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans, candy the yams and spice the hams. And though her daddy would scream and shout, she would not take the garbage out. It piled up to the ceiling: coffee grounds and potato peelings; brown bananas, rotten peas, and chunks of sour cottage cheese. It filled the can, it covered the floor, it cracked the window, it blocked the door. With bacon rinds and chicken bones, drippy ends of ice cream cones. The garbage rolled down the hall, it raised the roof, it broke the wall. And finally Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout said, ‘Ok, I’ll take the garbage out!’ But then, of course, it was too late, the garbage reached across the state, from New York City to the Golden Gate.”

            But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again.  Oh yes, sometime it will be too late, but not for us, not here, not now.  Zechariah’s basket, the angel of the LORD, Wickedness, lead lid and stork-like-women point us to the only solution when we are filled with deep despair.  Jesus Christ, God’s Son, takes the garbage of fear out.  Free of charge.  Every single time.  All for you!  Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.


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