He brought me out of the pit


Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on 7 July 2019

Readings were Psalm 30 and Luke 10:1-20

Download this sermon as a PDF

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

When I read the Psalm for today, I couldn’t help but reflect on these verses – in particular ‘restored me to life from among those gone done to the Pit’. The writer of this psalm has experienced something so terrible in his life that it has felt like death – he has been in a pit, which was often seen as the abode of the dead or a bottomless source of scourges and plagues.

So a pretty dark and awful place to find yourself. And God has restored him, has given him new life.

Penrhys1As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a time, around twenty years ago, when I spent a little time in Wales, in a town called Penrhys. The reason I thought about Penrhys was due to two things. First Penrhys has been a coal mining town – workers had, for many years, on a daily basis, delved deeply into in the ground to make a living – quite ironic that they had to make a living by travelling to the place that I’ve just said represented the abode of the dead. Second, Penrhys was colourless – it was as though all the colour had been sucked out of the place – like a pit, filled with darkness and grey.  It reminded me of the time when I had depression – a time without colour.

Penrhys hadn’t always been this way, actually until the late 16th century, it was one of the holiest sites for Christian pilgrims in Wales. Like the psalmist life, for a long time, Penrhys had been doing well, that was until the mines closed and people started to lose their jobs.

Penrhys2An estate was built as a possible answer to the growing crisis but rather than provide a way out of the pit, it created a deeper hole. To the point that the estate has gained a notorious reputation, more and more people are housed in close proximity to one another with little or no amenities and continuing unemployment.

And yet some, like the palmist, can say

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

In the midst of the pit, God has stepped in, has brought them out and is continuing to bring them out. While I was there, I witnessed God, through his people, in the greyness of the estate, bring colour to people’s lives and restore them.

And this reminds me now of the second reading, the sending of the seventy – the seventy disciple’s chosen and sent by Jesus to proclaim the good news. News that sets the captives free, brings sight to the blind and delivers people from the pit (from death).

In 1992 Llanfair Uniting Church was opened in the heart of Penrhys to be the ever present, living and breathing, loving and serving, good news of Jesus Christ. Through worship, a café (sound familiar?), a cheap laundrette, homework groups and employment support, the church is a place where the kingdom of God has come near.

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

Another pit I thought of was ‘cobalt mining’ which was now a growing concern in countries like the Congo and Madagascar.  Cobalt is one of the main minerals used to help produce the batteries for mobile phones. Cobalt in small doses is ok but in larger doses can negatively affect both the health of people and the environment – as long as mobile phones are required, the more need of mines to operate, which often use local people, including children, as cheap labour.

The physical pit of a mine deeply affects people’s lives, where it seems that the life of some is less important than having the latest phone. Yet in the midst of this, disciples of Jesus have decided to step in, seeking to be advocates through aid and development agencies such as Amnesty International or Fairphone and faith communities that become incarnational, living and working alongside the affected people.

Five years of work by the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has brought to fruition a mining code that will foster transparency, local development and adherence to the law.

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

Now of course the Psalmist isn’t really talking about mines, or actual deep pits but the reality of a life caught in a place that has no way out, is often all too real. And right now, you might be experiencing the pit, where everything is grey, just like Penrhys. You might feel overwhelmed with illness, the pit may feel so deep that your only companion is loneliness and isolation. Or you might know of others whose lives seem to be covered in darkness, where there is no colour, no life, no joy.

However deep you find yourself, and I don’t want to sugar coat it, because it is awful – I can’t even begin to comprehend what some of you might be going through. I know that God does – and like the Psalmist, who would have only been able to turn to God and ask for rescue from the pit because he remembered God’s constant faithfulness in the past. We can turn to all we know about Jesus – who not only sent the disciples to heal and save people but actually did everything, even climbing into the pit we find ourselves in, to take our place.

Jesus doesn’t say “give me your hand and I will pull you out”, Jesus says “stand on my shoulders, scramble over my head, use me to get out of the pit.” And once out of the pit not only do we proclaim:

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

But we become people working with Christ to close the dark pits that negatively affect people’s lives and the world we live in.

One way I experienced this, when I was ill, was by someone in the congregation, and I will always be grateful for this, gave me some flower bulbs to plant.  There were days nothing was happening, my illness never seemed to change, and yet bit my bit I witnessed the bulb grow – it took time but slowly the bulbs became beautiful flowers – colour had come back. This reminded me of God’s faithful – even though I couldn’t see God and I was still unwell, I was reminded that God was there, doing what was needed, most of the time simply being God with Me, his child.

O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit

If anything this morning has spoken to you, if you would like prayer about this, don’t hesitate to talk with one of the ministers or elders. I would like to finish now by us listening to a song by U2 – 40, which is based on Psalm 40.

U2 – 40

I waited patiently for the Lord.
He inclined and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay.

I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song.
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song?

You set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
Many will see, many will see and hear.

I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song.
I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?

Tags: ,

Comments & Responses

Comments are closed.

close pop up
st johns in the city church logo

Hello There

We have noticed you have been looking through our current website.

We’re going to be updating our website soon and we want to make it really easy for you to get the info you need as quickly as possible.

We would really appreciate it if you could fill out a survey to help us with our reseach.
It should only take a few minutes.

Please fill out our Survey