Out of the Ordinary – Clean Hands

Out of the ordinary

I have spent this week, like many of you, I guess being taught how to clean my hands properly.
This is something I learnt from a very early age.
My dad was a Textile Designer at Salt’s Mill and so from a very early age I knew that if I had dirty hands my dad wouldn’t be keen to touch them or me with his particularly sensitive and spotless appendages.
If I wanted a hug it was best to keep them clean. Essentially at this stage of the approaching viral epidemic the advice we are being given is to clean our hands regularly with soap and water. At church we are quite careful about keeping things clean and orderly when it comes to communion so it comes naturally to us.

All this thinking about dirty hands and communion brought back a memory from my childhood church of Michael. He was a teenager from a difficult family, at one time he had to live in a shed in the garden because the house was too full. Michael started coming to our church because people generally took an interest in him. His mum used to punish him by banning him from coming to church but he found a way round this. He got a Sunday morning paper round and would call in at church on his way home. Michael found it hard to keep clean at the best of times but with the addition of black news printed hands he looked like a real urchin on arriving at church. He did his best, cleaning them up on the way in and so did we, ignoring the black when it hadn’t entirely been removed. All went well until one Sunday a church member took him to one side and gave him a tremendous talking to about his hands. She really laid into him about it, telling him how dishonouring it was to God to receive bread and wine with dirty hands. The boy was almost broken by the conversation but fortunately others heard this and came to his defence and things were soon forgiven and forgotten but the image always stuck with me of dirty hands reaching out to receive pure white bread. Something important was in this image from thirty years ago that I don’t every want to lose.

Now I am not advocating coming to communion with dirty hands especially now but I think sometimes we all get a bit obsessed about being clean enough to be acceptable to God. Holding back for that moment when we are worthy enough to accept God’s grace… how much we have forgotten. Jesus after all was born in a dirty stable, worked as a carpenter, touched the leper, the unclean woman, the child, the foreigner and with dirty hands and feet pierced by nails dripping with blood and muck saved us all.
So I’m sure that even now, whether the dirt is on the outside or the inside he will be willing to take us in his hands and make us clean.

As the hymn writer put it so well: 
Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve:
because thy promise I believe,
O lamb of God, I come. 

Canon James Allison, 5 March 2020


We're all Key Workers now

In the words of the great Bob Dylan,
There's a battle outside and it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Today the news of the virus in the UK continues to worsen and my eldest grandson can’t go back to school despite my son being a key worker. 

Trying to come to terms with the attitude of others, the thought comes to me that we need to know we’re all key workers now. 
What happens next depends to an extent on us acting for the greater good with compassion, care, gratitude for what we have, forgiveness and a focus on concern for others. All acceptable attitudes but alien to some of the actions I take on a daily basis if I’m honest. 

I recall the words of Maximus Decimus Meridius, fighting in the arena with his fellow gladiators in the film Gladiator, ‘Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together, we survive.’

The Prime Minister talking tonight said, ‘When we get through this, can you ask yourself did you act with kindness and decency?’ Be of no doubt, the choices we make now will affect the rest of this momentous year together and our ability to answer the question he poses. 

Things we could do now: 

  • Be grateful and thankful for what we have.
  • As far as we can, be reconciled with those around us, forgiving those that we feel have wronged us. 
  • Support and encourage all. 
  • Most importantly, telling those near to us how much we love them. 

That’s key work we can all get stuck into. 

Simon Johnson, 20 March 2020