Monday, April 27, 2009

Air Shows, Dirt and Baptism: Let Go of Your Sin

We have just returned from the depths? heights? innards ? of central Florida. If there are two or three things about central Florida that are universal, it would be the dust, the heat and the suddenness of the rain in the afternoon.

We carried the camper down with us to Lakeland's Sun 'N Fun Air Show and went primitive – no hookups were available. No water, not electricity, no sewage -- and horror of horrors, no internet. That meant no showers in the trailer and no air-conditioning. Hot, hot, hot and the dirt was everywhere -- powder fine and black as coal.

The air show had set up showers for us to use but (unlike previous years) there were limited times of operation. I didn’t know that on Tuesday. We did a marathon trip down (9 hours) after packing all morning. I had taken a shower that morning, but skipped the next. We arrived at the campgrounds 7 minutes too late to get in for the night so we parked next to the entrance and waited until morning. That night I thought, “Well, I’ll just take one in the morning.” But we did breakfast and some unpacking and some air show prep, so I didn’t get to the showers until 5 minutes after they closed. Rats! Of course, I didn’t look at the sign through my foggy, dirt encrusted eyes so ... I missed the afternoon session as well. The up shot of all this? 4 days in the hot Flordia sun with no air-co and no showers. Yuck. By the time I got to the showers I was wallowing in yucki-ness. The fine black dust settles onto your perspiration and forms a sort of “Lakeland Mud.” Super yuck. Four days of it – Urgh. I have no words for how I felt after looking at my besmirched, grimy visage with the vicissitudes of 4 days of dirt festooning it.

My shower then was wonderful. I felt that warm, soft water stream over my head and it was heavenly. It was as balm to me; it was the best shower I could remember. I thought:
Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

To be cleansed from sin; to be washed; the waters of Baptism should feel like this; they should feel like salve, like balm to our dirty, grimy, stressed out souls.

Later that night, I washed my feet in the dishpan we had set aside for that purpose and I thought about this passage:
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, (John 13:6-10a)
We dwell on our sin; yet God does not. The dirt that encrusted me that morning was indeed gone; I have been washed clean of the stain of sin by my baptism. I only needed to wash my feet; we already are clean, only the incidental stains of the day need to be confessed.

There are deep truths that we understand and know with our heads; however until they are played out in our lives we sometimes do not fully incorporate them into our hearts.

Before I forget, God help me let go of the things I need to let go of – sins that have occurred and that You have forgiven, but that I haven’t forgiven myself. I am indeed clean as snow; I have been purged with hyssop. God help me remember that.

I think tomorrow I am going to pack a few health kits for UMCOR, just like we did the day after Katrina. A shower when you are hot and dirty is heavenly; I can imagine that to receive a hot shower with a clean washcloth and towel, soap, toothbrush and toothpast, comb and nail clippers when you have nothing else can make you feel more human -- it can give you a measure of dignity. maybe after your body is clean and refreshed, you can encounter the cleansing relief, the balm of the baptismal waters.

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