After Hurricane Katrina hit the people of the gulf coast, especially the people of New Orleans, had there lives turned upside down. Nothing was normal. Normal was a luxury for these 1000's and 1000's of people. All the things we all take for granted like electricity, phone service, retail and other basic necessitates of the American life were no where to be found. Another simple and basic necessity that we often take for granted is cleanliness and this basic need also became a luxury for the victims of Katrina. Even though there was a massive storm that devastated 1000's and put lives on hold dirt didn't get the memo. People still got dirty. Onesies, undies and all still got stained and crusted and yet there was no clean water even for drinking let alone to wash clothing. Tide had and interesting response to this crisis that they called "Loads of Love". Eight semi trucks filled with 32 high capacity washers and dryers each rolled into the gulf coast and provided the clean clothing everyone needed so desperatly. Tide was able to wash over 10,000 loads of laundry a day during the first several months of the Katrina disaster and even though it wasn't "the same" it helped bring a certain amount of peace and stability to the lives of those displaced people.
I wonder who said "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" first? I'm almost certain it was someones mom or girlfriend or wife...it had to be a women. You fella's and I know that left to our own devices our apartments, rooms, houses and dorm rooms become very nasty very quickly. When I first moved to college and lived in my own apartment it wasn't pretty. After awhile I met my wife Amanda and she helped instill in me the importance of cleaning, i.e if you don't clean I want be coming over :). Even as nasty as use boys can be I think for the most part we appreciate clean...in fact I would go as far as to say we love clean. Nothing impresses us more than a clean house or clean car or a freshly moped floor (I love pine-sole!). When clean is gone or we are unable to clean or get clean we are miserable, our lives are in chaos! And if we go long enough in unclean conditions we get sick. Histories worst epidemics are the result of unclean, unsanitary conditions. Colerea is the result of unclean water supply. The bubonic plague was the result of unclean and unsanitary living conditions. The list goes on and on and the bottom line is if we are unclean and unsanitary we die.
Truth is we know we are dirty, we know we stink. We're creatures, we sweat, we stain, we excreat all kinds of nasty things. Thats why we bath, we ware perfume and deodorant (some of us) to cover up all the stink and dirt. One of the most universal spiritual experiences we have is the recognition that we are spiritually unclean. Just about all religions start with humanities estrangement from the creator and our filth that estranges us. They all run with the same theme of needing to be cleansed, redeemed and reconciled to our creator. In our case it's through Jesus Christ. From the beginning of our holy scriptures this is the case. Adam and Even hid themselves from God because they knew they were unpresentable and needed to be cleaned.
Our passage this week brings us into the presents of God where John the Revelator witnesses a vision of a great multitude praising God while warring beautiful, sparkling clean white robes. These robes were so white any wife and mother would have been proud. :) But how'd they get the way? They were washed white, but not by the volition of any of the multitude, not by any effort or works on their part, but by the blood of the Lamb! Jesus washed them clean, he redeemed them and reconciled them to God so that they stood perfect, clean and holy before the father. Jesus gave them the gift of cleanliness! :) These multitude were not good people or bad people, but they were people who had been cleansed of suffering, who had been tormented, who had been hungry, tortured, lost and abused and had experienced loss. They are you and me and so many others. They are the people of Boston and the participants in the marathon. They are the family who lost their eight year old child...they are the terrorists who planted the bombs. All needing to be cleaned, all needing to be redeemed, all needing to be reconciled from the filth and dirt of this world. And lets be honest often tragedy happens because of our own selfishness. Often the very things we need to be cleansed from the most we bring upon ourselves. All these things are the things that bring about tears, sorrow and weeping in our lives.
It's been said that tears are liquid prayers. The bible is full of tears and weeping. Hagar wept for her son Ishmael when she thought he would die. Esau wept when we learned we had lost his birth right. Jacob wept when we finally was convicted and apologized to his brother for stealing that birth right. David wept over the loss of his good friend Jonathan. Jeremiah wept has he watched Jerusalem fall at the hands of Babylon. Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazreth and at the corruption of his faith as he gazed upon Jerusalem. Peter wept when he realized he had betrayed his best friend and teacher. And even St. Paul who was known as a rather stoic person wept when facing the fact the he might never see his friends and brothers at Ephesus again. Author Trevor Hudson said, "Every person sits next to a pool of his own tears." Tears really are just water and water has an amazing cleansing effect. Our baptism in water is symbolic of that cleansing in water, cleansing us from our sins and unrightousness. In away our tears do the same thing.
An old proverb says that tears keep the soul clean, clean from guilt, fear and condemnation. When the strongest and most powerful emotions show up, the ones we have the toughest time handling, so do the tears. An old Jewish Midrash (teaching) on Adam and Even says that when the couple was expelled from the garden the emotions were so great they had no way to express them and were therefore tormented, but as they left God gave them one more gift, the gift of tears and said, "for all of life's strongest and most difficult times these tears will release and bring peace." The white robes of the multitude would not have been possible without the cleansing blood of the lamb, but the blood would have never flowed without tears flowing first. Jesus suffered. He experienced loss, disappointment and death and none of those things ever come without tears. Also the good side of tears. He experienced laughter, joy and celebration, which are also normally accompanied by tears. The truth is all the torments of this world can be quenched by the gift of tears.
This week if you are facing a terrible and difficult time, let the tears flow. If you are feeling lost and alone, let the tears flow. If you have experienced loss, if you are dumbfounded by the senseless tragedy of the Boston bombing, let the tears flow and remember what Jesus said, "Blessed are those who weep and morn, for they will be comforted." I'll leave you with this old Rabbinical saying, "In the desert of the heart, let the healing tears start."
Blessed Easter Four,