Friday, March 12, 2010

Sanitized and Sanctified

Sanitized and sanctified—
Last week I returned home from Haiti after an especially long and dirty trip. I spent days in and out of the refuse and rubble of the lives of the victims and survivors of this devastated country. Arriving home I left my luggage and computer case in the garage while I slipped off my shoes, stripped down to my underwear, emptied all my bags on the floor, and began to sanitize everything. I loaded clothes in the washer (hot water with bleach), jumped in the shower twice (hot water and scented soap), and washed my bags (hot water and dish soap). I sprayed down everything with Lysol including myself. Everything was sanitized just the way I like it! Maybe I like it too much!
Later, sitting on my patio, sipping an ice tea imagines of the helpless and hurting flowed back into my mind in a virtual slideshow of agony and anguish. I realized I hadn’t done enough. I couldn’t do enough! Sanitizing shoes and clothes, luggage and even my body I couldn’t sanitize my heart and mind. Maybe, that is good too!
I felt ashamed and somewhat sad that my obsession with cleanliness seemed to overshadow something far more important—the sanctified life. It’s easy to get so engrossed in staying clean on the outside that the inside suffers. This season of the year, Lent, reminds me that I can’t clean up the inside. No amount of Lysol or hot soapy water will take away my selfish inclinations and sinful ways. Clean shoes, clean clothes, clean luggage and clean bodies don’t make for a clean heart and mind.
I was sanitized but was I sanctified?
It seemed to me that I hadn’t done enough, couldn’t do enough for the helpless and hurting of Haiti to make myself feel good. I wanted to go back, to do more, to do it better, and to stay until the job was finished. Perhaps that extra effort would render a clean heart and mind. If I only I did more, maybe then the dirty selfish sinful feelings inside would go away and I would feel good about myself, clean on the inside and sanctified once more.
My mind wandered to yesteryear when each Sunday at worship we would sing Psalm 51as the Offertory back in the days when the liturgy was still in vogue:
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
In my mind I could hear those words and they reminded me that being clean inside and out, being sanctified, is not my work but God’s. I ran to my desk and read from my old friends Luther’s Small Catechism and Koehler’s Summary of Christian Doctrine articles on sanctification and living the sanctified life.
I turned in my Bible to Romans, chapter 12 and read once again Paul’s words:
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
My sanitized life is a sanctified life not by what I do but because of what Christ has done and continues to do through the work of His Holy Spirit. I can clean the outside but He cleans us inside out with His sanctifying life giving word and sacraments.
I’ll go back to Haiti and I’ll get dirty again for sure! I’ll have sinful selfish thoughts and regret not doing enough again I know. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, I’ll know the difference between being sanitized and being sanctified. Clean, clean in and through Christ………..

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