Friday, July 16, 2010

Clean Hands

Late again - blame it on Daily Bread Cooking Camp. Twice each summer I lead a week-long cooking camp at my church for children of various ages. This week I had the littlest campers - 6, 7 and 8-year-olds. What a week we've had! Grand adventures in the kitchen, Bible studies that added new spice to old, familiar stories, and lots of laughter around the tables as we ate what we cooked.

There are a number of water connections I could make - today we boiled water, used ice to make ice cream and watered the little garden we're tending for the Sunday School. Yesterday we visited Boggy Creek Farm and saw many drip irrigation lines which prompted the comment "only the roots get thirsty - like your mouth" from a knowledgeable 7 year old. Oh, I could tell a dozen stories but the thing that has me thinking this week is hand-washing.

On Monday morning, after we pray, the very first thing we do is learn an important safety tip that helps us to keep everyone safe in the kitchen: always cook with clean hands. We line up and wash with soap for as long as it takes to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" at normal speed and then rinse, dry and go to our cooking stations. If a camper touches anyone else, or his or her own face, hair or ears, the camper is sent back to wash hands again. It's a little bit like Chutes and Ladders - back to the beginning with almost no notice. The kids police each other and somehow, my youth helpers managed to make everyone feel like it was okay to go back to the sink again and again. One budding cook came to me to report another camper's hair-touching-violation and enthusiastically demonstrated the scope of said violation by running her fingers through her own hair. When I pointed out that now she had to go wash her hands again she almost collapsed from laughing at herself. This is grace - to know that forgiveness is coming even as we commit the sin.

I think I'm going to try to live like my little camper and rid myself of "germs". I'm going to figuratively wash my hands in the baptismal font every time I catch myself in violation of the cardinal rule of loving God and loving neighbor. Instead of beating myself up, spending endless hours trying to figure out how to undo some thoughtless moment of insensitivity or neglect, or making deals with God to mitigate my guilt, I am going to go and wash my hands. I am going to make right what I can fix, tell God about my germs and then wash my hands in the waters of baptism and make a soapy sign of the cross on my forehead to remind myself that I am forgiven.

And I believe I'll sing as I row my boat gently down the stream of God's unlimited forgiveness:

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven's gates to open wide.
He will wash away my sin,
let each little child come in!
Yes! Jesus Loves ME!

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