Acts 8: 14-17
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Many years ago I spent my Saturdays helping out at a soup kitchen held at my church on Staten Island. Newly sober, and having just returned to the church, I felt like I wanted to give something back, to help others, as I had been helped when I was in need. So I would go to the church on Saturday morning, and do whatever was needed, from helping to set the tables and prepare the meal, to serving (we had table service) and then cleaning up after the meal was over.
One of the things I learned while volunteering there was the value of “clean as you go”. The woman who ran the program was very big on making sure we didn’t leave all the mess until the end, but to clean up messes as you go along, because to wait until we were done serving meant more of a mess to clean up at one time, and also that some spills would dry up and be harder to clean that way.
And of course she was right, cleaning as we went along did help make things easier when it came time to clean-up after lunch ended. This way we could be locking up the doors within an hour of the end of service, rather than spending two hours to clean.
Since that time, I have tried to practice “clean as you go” in my life, both when cleaning my house, and when dealing with other people! Over time, I have improved at “clean as you go”, by learning to make amends for mistakes and missteps I have made as soon as I realize that I have “made a mess” of things. This works well in all of my relationships, and especially with my daughter, as it has helped to diffuse many difficult situations between us. I think this has also taught her that it is better to admit to our mistakes than try to hide them or to shift the blame to someone else.
I would love to say that I always practice “clean as you go” successfully, but as I am human there are times when I fail to live up to my high ideas. As my house is filled with people and pets, and as I am often too busy or too reluctant to clean as I go, the house can get messy. In the same way, I am not always the parent I would like to be, as I get busy, frustrated and overwhelmed…even now that my daughter is a young adult, there are still times when I fail to clean as I go, and wind up having a bigger mess to clean up, once I do get around to apologizing and making amends for what I have done wrong.
The good news is that God forgives us for being human and falling short, and this frees us up to just need to practice, and do the best we can (as in most things we do as parents). One thing that can help us practice “clean as we go” in our lives is by remembering our baptism every day, for in the waters of baptism we were washed clean by God’s grace and given a new life, just as in today’s reading. For Baptism was not a one-time deal for the apostles or for us, but instead it is an on-going event!
By remembering our baptism every day, or several times a day, we can start with a fresh point of view, which can really help us when things are getting too tense, too frustrating or too sad! It can allow us to step back, take a breath and start over. Freed from our resentments, we can once again be open to talking (not yelling), allowing respect and love to return to us and lead us to peace, and solutions that work for us!
For it is the life and love that we share together, which is a reflection of God’s love in our lives, and a sure sign that the new life given to us in our baptism grows stronger with practice and shines brighter when it is shared.
Let Us Pray:
Dear God, thank you for making us your own children through Christ. Please help us to remember this promise by living our baptism every day through practicing “clean as you go” whenever life begins to feel overwhelming, so that we can wash away the frustration and anger to start over with a new perspective! Let us be forgiving of ourselves and others when we fall short of your grace, because when we do so, we share your love with all those around us and we teach our children the value of compassion and amends.