Monday, January 28, 2013

A Fake Kind of Clean

Matthew 23:26 "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."

Participants in the commercial were guided into a smelly room  treated with airfreshener. 
There is a series of commercials for an air/fabric freshener in which people participate in an experiment. With eyes blindfolded, they are led into a filthy room and invited to sit on a terrible looking, ripped up couch. Without being able to see the condition of their surroundings, (imagine overflowing litter boxes at their feet) they are asked to describe where they are. They describe the place based on smell: "It's floral" "It's beachy" or other such depictions of refreshing, pristine cleanliness. Of course, when they remove the blindfolds a look of disgust comes over their face.  "Where are we?". Certainly, it is a shocking discovery:  they are sitting on a dog hair covered couch holding a raggedy pillow up to their face and huffing in a fake kind of clean. 

This shock may be akin to what the to the pharisees felt when Jesus sought to remove their blindfolds. His ministry was continually one that pointed out how they were hypocritical, not holy. He described their lives as rotten on the inside, but clean looking on the outside.  

Follow Jesus around long enough and we all begin to discover we wear blindfolds, I think.
If we are growing in our faith, God will pull off our blindfolds and show us how the inside of our lives doesn't match the outside. God's loving grace stirs in us spiritual renewal of the deepest parts of our heart and soul. 

If we are not growing in our faith, we are content to keep the blindfold on. We are ok with masking the odor of our ugliest thoughts behind the perfume of pretending. 

Unfortunately some will convince us that this is what God wants. The pharisees certainly thought they were living out their faith in the most proper fashion. Christians can be like the pharisees, too - hiding our real emotions, telling ourselves we can't go to church unless we are in a good mood and ready to smile and praise God. The result? We don't see each other for who we are. We don't see the world around us. Worship becomes pretending life is floral and beachy when really we are sniffing in a mildewed pillow from the basement.

When I see those air freshener commercials, I just think to myself, wouldn't anyone prefer  a clean room that smells "the way it smells" over a filthy room that smells like a lilac garden in springtime?  No matter how difficult, I would rather take the time to pick up the old pizza boxes and vacuum the dog hair than spray the room and continue to sit on cat pee. 

It's not just pretending with others. Jesus teaches us that we pretend with ourselves. The inner condition of our souls needs to be cleaned out. Not by acting "holy" but by finding true "wholeness" in God.The way to do this is to intentionally turn to God. Take off the blindfold. Look critically at our life  and honestly get "real" with ourselves before God.

The Christian Church sets time aside for this Getting Real with the season called LENT. This is the 40 days of self-examination and prayer that prepares us for the renewing Spirit of God at Easter. This is the forty days of taking off the blindfolds and discovering we have been sitting on a trash heap of old stinky sins that need to be tossed out.

In Psalm 51, we pray for God to create in us a clean heart. Certainly we are asking for the real deal and not a fake kind of clean. We don't want a cleaner looking heart that is actually corroded with bitterness. No, we want the heart of a follower of Jesus. And only God can  create this type of heart within us by putting a new and right spirit within us. He's not spraying a perfume on us, he is cleaning us from the inside out.

The Lenten season of Soul-Cleaning begins Wednesday February 13. We will meet at Olivet in the chapel at 7pm for a time of reflection, returning our selves to God and handing over our blindfolds.

If you are unable to make it to the Olivet Ash Wednesday Service, see if there is an Ash Wednesday Worship service near your work (some places will hold a noon service) The Ash Wednesday worship service is a beautiful service designed to get each of us to handover our selves to God as we go forward on the forty day journey to Easter.