“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matthew 23:25-26 (For a great dramatization, check this out from Jesus of Nazareth)
The “cleaning the inside of the cup” part is on my mind today. One reason for that is that I’ve done a lot of cleaning lately. I had a moment to continue my ongoing cleaning-out of the Shalom House basement the other day – that man had the best stuff buried in the debris he left! I have a construction project going on in my house, so that part of my life is pretty dirty. And Circle of Hope BW just hired a new cleaner (thanks, Lord!).
My parents were big on cleaning, so I am kind of picky about it. That’s mostly because they were picky with my cleaning abilities, not because I find some moral purpose in having things spotless! One of my specialties in the family housekeeping was floors. My father, the bosun’s mate, was a passionate trainer for cleaning floors. For him, the use of brooms, even mops was a purely-preliminary step for swabbing the deck. No floor was clean until one got down on his hands and knees and scrubbed. If brushes (down to toothbrushes) were necessary, they should be at hand. And the big thing, the thing that separated real cleaners from pretenders, was the art of rinsing. Here is the theory for rinsing: Even if one doesn’t use soap, the goal is to extract every bit of soapy/dirty water off the floor, get it ALL into the bucket and out the door. (And don’t spill it on the back porch or your mom will slip on it when she gets back from the store). Do not, under threat of unpredictable repercussions, just spread that dirt around into an even layer that makes it look like the floor is clean. If Dad is running around in his socks and undies (which he will be!) the evidence of your sloth will be quickly discovered.
While floor cleaning may be a subject for me and my therapist, thorough spiritual cleaning is a good subject for Jesus and me. It is tempting to just sweep the dirt here and there in our lives and never get it into the dust pan and out the door. Our relationships, our leadership, our societal obligations show even more evidence of random sweeping. We spread more toxic dust with our wifty attempts to appear tidy than we accomplish cleaning, most of the time. Much more is it challenging to get down on our knees and inspect the floor for the layers of waxy build-up and grime that we can’t see, it is so far under the nose on our face that is so plain. It is even more challenging to give the floor of our hearts a good scrub, dump the bucket far outside our spiritual house and be ready for living water.
I hope my metaphor is doing more than entertaining you. Along with all the personal dirt you should stop sweeping around, we should all get out our dustpans and begins with the mess building up around us. For instance, today should be called “national racism day” in honor of Martin Luther King. The whole country keeps sweeping that sin around. It is not just the sin of being mean and depriving people of their rights. It is the sin of losing sight of what a clean floor looks like. Behind racism is the sin of imagination-deficit. It is the sin that makes us blind to what we can do to make a difference, like making a friend with someone who is not immediately likely to be our friend, like letting our anger about societal lies and injustce boil over, like Jesus. I know you have heard this before. But I don’t know why Jesus is the only one who seems to notice his socks are dirty.