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Washing the Heart

Pentecost Proper 17

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Mark 7:1-8 

Preparation: Bring a bowl of water, some soap, and a towel.

Do any of you like to play in the dirt or make mud pies? (Let children respond.) Dirt can be lots of fun. And if there is water nearby, you can make mud pies and build towers and channels for the water.

But if you’ve been playing outside in the dirt and you’re called in for supper, what do you need to do before sitting down to eat? (Let children respond.) We need to wash our hands, don’t we? Why do we wash our hands? (Discuss.) If we eat with dirty hands, we might get sick. We might get dirt on the food as we pass it to others at the table, and they might get sick, too. Washing your hands before a meal is a good rule, isn’t it?

A long time ago, before people knew about germs and bacteria and before they knew the scientific reasons for washing hands before eating, God made a rule for his people. He told the Israelites always to wash their hands before eating. This was a very good idea. God was trying to keep his people healthy. The Israelites followed that law long before they even knew why God had commanded it. They were still following it when Jesus was preaching here on earth.

If you have dirt on your hands, you can clean it off with soap and water. The germs get washed away along with the grime, and your hands are clean.

But if your hands aren’t dirty, and you are thinking bad things—your mind is “dirty.” Maybe you are thinking that you’d really like to use your hands to slug your brother or to push your sister out of the way. If that happens to me and I want to free myself from those bad thoughts and actions, would soap and water help? Would it work to wash my hands in this bowl of water? (Children can answer.)

There’s only one thing that can clean us from bad thoughts and actions and get rid of sin in our lives. Does anyone know what that is? (Someone may answer.) Because Jesus died on the cross for us, he has the power to forgive our sins and wash away all the bad things in our lives. And he promises always to do this for us. So when we are sorry and tell Jesus, he washes away our sin.

I’m going to pass this bowl of water around and let each of you dip your hands in. (Pass around the bowl and towel.) As you do this, remember that just as surely as soap and water wash your dirt away, Jesus washes away the sin from your lives. He makes us clean on the inside, which is even more important than being clean on the outside.

Prayer:  Wash our hearts and minds clean with your forgiveness, Lord Jesus. Thank you for saving us.

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