In my reading through the Bible in a year I have just finished going through the book of Leviticus. What struck me afresh is how messy and practical it was to be a priest. So much blood, dealing with animal skins and stacking wood, clearing away ashes and burning offerings day in and day out. All the while trying to keep your holy garments clean and neat, and trying to avoid getting blood on the breastplate and its precious stones. And what do you do when it has rained for a week and the wood is wet and you have to burn a whole bull on the altar? What then? It seems hard work, extremely messy and fraught with challenges that had to be overcome. Nothing holy and clean and pious about it at all really. Then there were the lamps to keep trimmed and topped up with oil, the light was never to go out. Packing up and moving the tabernacle would have been a mammoth task and they never knew if they would be camping for just a day or a month or a year. So much uncertainty.
In some ways today as Christians, we are still faced with the same messiness of life as we try to follow Jesus. Life is complicated, relationships are messy, and nothing is neat or cut and dry. There are always challenges and obstacles to overcome, all the while believing that God is with us as he was with the Israelites. Yet some days it must have felt like a bit of a grind. A week, a month, a year is a long time in our lives personally and in the life of a church. Things can go from ok to very stressful in a very short time. It only takes a phone call, a conversation with your kid, an incident with an elderly parent, a blow up with your spouse. How do we live faithfully to God in uncertain times? Life has a way of getting us messy no matter how “clean” we try to keep ourselves and how diligent we seek to be in following Jesus.
Yet God is not outside of the mess of life. In fact he ordered the priests to serve in their roles and more than that he stepped into our messy world and got his hands well and truly dirty in the person of Jesus. Jesus embraced our mess. He touched the lepers, he ate with the outcasts, he listened to the stories of the hard done by, he moved into the neighbourhood and allowed its dirt to stick to him. He didn’t float above the ground impervious to pain. He cried, he got frustrated, he got angry, he loved, he mourned. And one Friday he walked up that hill beaten and bloody carrying his cross to take upon himself the darkest filthiest mess of humanity, that we might be made clean. That we might be made whole. That our relationships with each other might be restored. That the way to God might be blown wide open in his grace and abandon love. This Easter don’t try clean your mess up. Just invited Jesus into it and allow his grace to wash over you afresh as we come to the cross.
Grace and Peace - Garry