We are surrounded by this constant reminder:
Wash your hands.
Some of us have never washed our hands more; it’s practically an addiction
and we are in need of lotion now as much as soap from the near constant scrubbing.
We sing now, too, (even if in our heads)
just to make sure we’re washing long enough.
The echo from the Psalmist from who knows how long ago rings in our ears:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and a pure heart…”
We’re half way there!
But we continue to wash.
We wash because we’re scared,
and, if we’re honest, because it’s the one semblance of control we have left.
We are, it appears, more fragile than we thought.

But is it enough?
We’re told we might be infected even if we feel fine; feel clean.
We might, we’re told, be infecting innocent ones, unaware.
But still, we wash to protect those around us,
and protect the need to feel that we’re in control.
Maybe we’re okay.

But a pure heart?
Who can cleanse their own heart?
It drives so many of our decisions, yet remains out of our reach.
“How can I know the sins lurking in my heart?”
We cannot cleanse our heart, cannot make it pure.
“For what I want to do I do not do,
But what I hate I do.”
We’re as familiar with this feeling
As we are with the smell of our hand sanitizer.

Yet You –
You Whose hands were in the dirt with us from the beginning,
You bid us come.
We look closer and realize – You’re not just a dirty-handed God,
but bloody-handed too.
And it’s here – of all places! – in your dirty bloodied hands
that we’re invited to stop guessing if we’re clean enough,
and, at last, to ascend the mountain of the Lord
with clean hands
and a pure heart.

Wash our hearts, Lord,
And our hands, too.


A Pandemic Prayer
Lent 2020