at three ment

When I was about seven or eight an uncle of mine came to visit. He is the sort of uncle who teaches you rhymes that have slightly naughty endings so you can recite them at inopportune moments. I loved playing football and somehow persuaded my uncle to come into the back garden and kick a football around with me on the lawn.

My uncle told me that good footballers never come off the pitch clean, and indeed the muddier you are, the better you are. I decided that I would be awesome.

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I can’t remember exactly what my mother said when her mud-caked came happily back into the house but I don’t think she was impressed with how awesome I was at football. There was mud everywhere. I was covered head to toe and my clothes were filthy. I was sent upstairs to have a bath, my clothes went straight in the washing machine and this may be my imagination as I recall the event but it wouldn’t have surprised me if I heard a mischievous chuckle from my uncle as I went upstairs.

In the bath I was washed clean until I almost sparkled. My mud-stained clothes were washed with one of those ‘whiter than white’ washing powders. By the time the process was finished all of the mud was gone. Not a trace remained.

Our rebellion against God / falling short of his standards / sin is like mud and stains that need to be washed away by a thorough scrubbing process. We can’t do that ourselves, but Jesus’ death is like a washing process that makes us cleaner than we have ever been – whiter than white.

There’s a passage in Revelation 7 where in John’s vision he saw a multitude in white robes in heaven. He asked who they are and was told, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Lamb’s blood is not a natural detergent (don’t try it, you’ll ruin your clothes and get a visit from the RSPCA). The image is telling us that we are made clean by Jesus’ death (Jesus is ‘the Lamb who was slain’ in the metaphors of Revelation).

Next time, restoration

Be blessed, be a blessing

churches are like washing machines

The commands that a washing machine ignores

The commands that a washing machine ignores

In the beginning was the washing machine. It stood silently in the kitchen, mouth slightly open, waiting for someone to feed it. Eventually the caretaker did feed it on its favourite diet of clothes that needed to be washed. They added seasoning in the form of washing powder and encouraged the machine to start chewing.

But the machine refused. Instead it flashed a small, almost insignificant, light to say that its mouth wasn’t closed properly and because it was a polite washing machine it would not eat with its mouth open. When the caretaker came back at the time when the washing machine should have finished its meal they found that the washing machine had not started its meal – it was still waiting for its mouth to be closed firmly.

Frustrated, the caretaker closed the door firmly, encouraged the machine to start chewing, and waited to see that it was now going to start. The machine happily started (as if nothing had been wrong) and the caretaker went off to do other things, frustrated at the loss of good drying time because of the washing machine’s refusal to start.

The washing machine did its thing. It salivated, it churned, it chewed, it swished, it swallowed while the caretaker got on with other things. As the washing machine neared the end of the meal it started chewing more vigorously. It started making more and more noise and getting more and more agitated, and if it had not been tethered to the wall and the water pipes it might even have started walking around the kitchen.

The caretaker heard that the washing machine had nearly finished so they came back into the kitchen and watched the machine finish. Then the caretaker tried to open the machine’s mouth. The washing machine was having none of it. It would not open its mouth. The caretaker waited for what seemed like ages, but each time they tried to open the machine’s mouth the machine refused to budge a millimetre. The phone rang, so the caretaker went to answer it. As soon as the washing machine was sure that the caretaker had left it decided it would open its mouth so that when the caretaker came back the machine happily opened its mouth as if there had not been a problem at all.

The caretaker muttered something derogatory about white goods and the machine sat in the kitchen with an air of smugness. It was still in control: it was still calling the shots.

Does that resonate with you (like a washing machine on a  spin cycle)? I wonder how many hours are wasted in a year by washing machines asserting their dominance over humanity? Of course they are just machines not sentient beings (aren’t they?) and their role is to make a mundane task easier for us (did I hear chuckling from the kitchen?).

But there is a sense in which churches are like washing machines. This is not in a Baptist lots-of-water way. But we exist as churches to do God’s will. We exist to serve him (and on his behalf to serve others). Churches are meant to be getting on with the task of showing the world what Jesus is like.

Yet sometimes it must seem to Jesus that churches are like washing machines with a mind of our own: deciding to do things our way, not getting on with the task he has set us, and simply being awkward.

Please God help us to remember why we exist and fill us with your Spirit to enable us to do your will.

Must go – the washing machine has summoned me.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


Water work

Did it tickle? Was the water warm?

Was it relaxing, easing away the stress of the day?

The Washing of Feet by Sieger Köder

Were they looking down in embarrassment?

Did anyone else wonder whether to say anything?

Did anyone else want to stop him?

It was so demeaning, so unbecoming, so degrading, so smelly,

None of them wanted to do it.

He definitely shouldn’t have been doing it.

Yet there he was, baptising their feet.

His feet had been anointed by that woman and they had been indignant.

Now he knelt in front of them, doing the menial servant-job.

The next day as they watched from afar as the nails were driven into his feet did any of them wish they had taken their turn to wash them for him?

>clean hands…

>Welcome to Novembrrrr.

I have been trying to deepen my relationship with Jesus for many years now, and occasionally come across ideas or activities that I have found helpful. It is easy to know that one of the things is ‘pray more’ but it is difficult to remember as often as I want to. I have to rely on other people, events and cues to help me.

I have often thought of linking my prayers to regular moments in my day. As a family we say ‘grace’ at mealtimes, for example. A while ago I was part of a team planning a major youth conference and had the idea of getting some toothbrushes printed with a phrase to remind people to pray while brushing their teeth. This weekend the penny finally dropped.

BubblesI am now endeavouring to pray specific prayers of confession and about my desire to be holy when I am washing. My brain is not otherwise occupied and these are regular moments in my daily routine (honest!). This is enabling me to keep closer to Jesus as his Spirit prompts me of things to pray and sometimes people to whom I need to apologise.

I know that many of you will be doing this already, but for me it is something new and another way of reflecting on my relationship with God.

Sort of washing joke:

John went to visit his old grandfather in rural Devon. On the first morning of his visit, John’s grandfather made a breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. However, John noticed a film on his plate, and questioned his grandfather, “Are these plates clean?” 
His grandfather replied, “They’re as clean as cold water can get them. Just finish your meal!”
For lunch John worried that the plates had dried egg and asked, “Are you sure these plates are clean?”
The old man said, “I told you those dishes are as clean as cold water can get them. Now I don’t want to hear any more about it!”
Later that afternoon, as John was leaving, his grandfather’s dog started to growl, not letting him pass. John yelled, “Grandfather, your dog won’t let me get to my car.”
The old man shouted, “Coldwater, down boy!”