Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Theology of Washing Up

Sing it out, shout it out loud: 'It's Christmas!' The long wait is nearly over. Before long the presents will all have been opened, the turkey will be a carcass, and those incredible little sausages wrapped in bacon will all be in my belly.
Soon it will be 2.30pm on Christmas Day...
and it will be time to do the washing up...
Pah!


Whenever I find myself taking on the never-ending mountain of dishes, standing there with hands buried amongst the soap suds, a strange phrase, a curious challenge, rattles through my mind. I'm not sure where I first heard the phrase uttered, but somehow the phrase has become wedged in my consciousness - it's dug its claws in and clung on.
I'm talking about the challenge to 'Find God at the bottom of the washing up bowl.'

How weird. What's all that about?

Doing the washing up can cause us to pause and stop. And think. It can be one of the rare times in our busy days when we turn off the computer or TV screen and just stand.
Sometimes in silence.
Sometimes in solitude.

Which is of course extremely precious and powerful in our fast paced, image-drenched, noise-laden society. There is a reason why you can download silence from itunes. There is a reason why silence reaches number 21 in the charts at Christmas or number 20 over Remembrance Sunday.
Silence strips us down.
Silence takes us to our core.

When it comes to relationship with God, in many ways Sunday mornings are the easy bit. Music and images and enthusiastic friends are all there to help us focus upon the love that breathes life into our lungs. But take away the external stimuluses, place us next to a bowl full of bubbles and dirty plates, then where do our thoughts wonder?

Can we 'find God' in the mundane?
In the every day?
Can we 'slow down, be still, awake, and aware of the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is so wondrously present'?

But there is more to washing up than just the possibility of silence and solitude, the ordinary and the mundane. Washing up is first and foremost an act of work - I guess, that's why most people have dishwashers!

But I am learning that our work is extremely important.
Rob Bell regularly says that God has invited us to 'take part in the ongoing creation of the world.' (see pg24 of 'SexGod')

To which we are like, errr, explain that please.

I began to understand more of the theology behind this idea whilst reading this academic text which explained that the first six days in the creation poem of Genesis 1 each finish with the refrain, 'and there was evening - and there was morning.' But - and here's the crucial bit - this phrase is not used after the seventh day.
The authors claim that, 'The reason is simple: we are still in the seventh day.'
There has been no evening and morning yet.
Because the seventh 'day' hasn't finished yet!

'God has indeed rested from creating,' the authors write, 'but that is not the end of the story.' They call the seventh day, 'the day of human historical responsibility.'
Crafted in the image of our Creator, we are designed to be creative.
By echoing the very first creative cry, 'Let there be light!' Jesus invites us to be 'the light of the world,'

Now, hold up. Press pause. The idea of God handing over responsibility for his creation may perhaps seem to you like a bit of a stupid idea. After all, why would an all-powerful deity have taken such a massive risk? And sure enough, history tells us that over and over again, throughout the millennia, human beings have indeed failed to bring the light that God desires, regularly spreading pain and injustice and horror and suffering and neglect over the earth.

But God is Love.
And true Love desires partnership.
Co-operation.
Collaboration.
Love - by its very nature - shares.
And trusts.
And Love - by its very nature - forgives.
Unconditional Love, over and over again, offers us a fresh start.
No matter how badly we've messed things up before, we are given a fresh opportunity to be the light of the world.

So as we head into 2011,
whether it's by managing money.
Distributing food.
Organising events.
Developing medicine.
Bringing law and order.
Constructing buildings.
Cultivating the environment.
Educating the next generation.

Or washing up dishes.

We are all invited to play our part in bringing paradise back to earth.
To rescue beauty. And restore peace.
To squirt our Fairy Liquid.
And scrub away the dirt.

1 comment:

Paul Windo said...

Remarkable! Great stuff mate...
I actually really like doing the washing up - maybe it is exactly what you've said - a chance to stop & reflect?!