Stuck in Prison

Hatred imprisons us, no doubt about it.  So, what do we do with it?  Pretend it’s not there?  Embrace it and use it to fuel our destruction of others?  Those praying the Psalms learn how to put words to their hate in the form of prayer.  Only by owning our hatred can we move toward forgiveness. 
After I had written this sermon (but before I preached it) I heard of the unspeakable horror that occurred in a movie theater in Colorado.  Lives senselessly snuffed out by a deranged mad man.  Those were survived were terrorized and/or physically injured. Surely no one in that movie house will ever be the same again.  Will the survivors ever be able to enjoy a movie?  Or will they always be fearful and anxious?  We don’t choose the emotions of fear, anger, and hatred.  They erupt without internal provocation.  And once they rise within us, what are we to do?  
Pray, of course.  But what does one full of ugly emotion pray?  Pray honest prayers that express the pain, injustice, and anger.  Psalm 137 is no where near Psalm 23 in popularity, but it has it’s place in the inspired book of prayers.  Without it (and the other imprecatory Psalms) how would we know what to do with our rage?  Trust God enough to express your ugliest, most disgusting thoughts and feelings.  He will see that justice is done.  And, unlike humans, he will know exactly who needs justice and who needs mercy.  Trust him, there is no reason for hatred to keep you prison forever.  He will teach you how to forgive so that you can be set free from the prison of hate.   
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Byron FikePreaching Minister

Byron has been the preaching minister at Clear Lake since 1999. He and his wife have three grown children, who have also devoted their lives to serving the Lord. In his personal time, Byron likes to read books, watch movies, and play with his little dog Willie. He also is an avid follower of Alabama football, having grown up in Tuscaloosa during the glory days of Bear Bryant.


3 Responses to “Stuck in Prison”

  1. I was talking with a sister at church yesterday who expressed how much she enjoys talking with the homeless, often, much more than with “regular” folk. Homeless people tell you how it is, sometimes in the most raw and intense ways. Talking with the homeless will make you feel uncomfortable because they relate life in realities we'd rather ignore and pretend they don’t exist. Most homeless are honest, bold, and to the point. Hard life on the streets has taken away the pretense of painting a pretty picture of a life spent begging for money and depending on some unknown divine providence for daily bread. We, you and I, know where our bread will come from tonight and tomorrow and the next day, prayer or no prayer; yet for many, the thought of not having to worry about being feed is simply a dream that will never come. Many are angry, desperate, broken, and ugly. But they carry their emotions with a rare form of transparent honest dignity. How does this rare form of transparent dignity come from? I’ve heard one author say, when you find yourself at the bottom of society, the only direction to look is up.

    Too often, when discussing the homeless, as if by some abstract thought, some people argue the message of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But I ask how we know who attempts to work and those who don’t? Do homeless take advantage of charity? Yes, a few, but even folk in “civil” society take advantage of charity, more so of God’s forgiving Spirit. This argument from Paul’s letter reinforces the fact that they have never talked, plainly, with a homeless person. They’ve never gone to see where they live, what they call home, or have never listened to what they had to say.

    This conversation with our sister was refreshing. I always feel blessed when hearing a brother or sisters testimonial in dealings with my favorite kind of people. Too often, those in “civilized” (bourgeois) society hide their true emotions; our weaknesses are signs of failure. Is boasting about our weakness too transparent, too honest, too raw (2 Corinth 12:9)? Jesus’ words of continued poverty is prophetic… those who are poor by circumstance and even the Saints who’ve chosen to cast away riches for rags, are some of the best examples of God’s beautiful flowers.

    The prayers of God’s beautiful flowers are the most intense prayers to ever grace the ears of those who hear them. These are prayers that are intense, emotional, heart wrenching, but they gravitate the soul to Gods deep well of grace. When I was a teenager, I prayed for the material: school grades and Nintendo. As a solider, I prayed not to die. As an adult, I pray for success. But when I hear a homeless pray I hear something much much different. I hear prayers of suffering, longing, and despair from thirsty souls who NEED, in the most extreme kind of dependence, on God daily. In their prayers, they give God everything; all the anger, hate, jealousy, envy, all the putridness of man and sin. But they always come out the other said in wet, tear-filled joy. As if by emptying themselves to God, they filled themselves with God…

  2. avatar Jim Fletcher says:

    Believe it or not, there is a song in our hymnal taken from Psalm 137. It is #444 (Sometimes known as “By the Rivers of Babylon”. I have never led it in an assembly, and have only sung it a few times. Needless to say, it hasn't made any top 10 lists!!

  3. avatar Byron says:

    Jim, Acapella recorded that song long ago. It's quite a beautiful tune. I didnt' know it was in the book or I would have had you lead it last Sunday. (Well, maybe you and I would sang a duet!)

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