When I get out of bed in the morning. Before and after each meal. Definitely twice, or more, in the course of a dirty household job. At least once during a restaurant meal. Before I brush my teeth.
I would love to say you’ve just read a list of my regular prayer occasions. I would love to say that’s how often I live up to my ordination vows and set a good example for those who watch my spiritual leadership.
That list is something we are more likely to hold in common. It’s a list of how often I wash my hands on a typical day.
Sometimes, hand washing is a ritual. Sometimes, it’s a necessity. And sometimes, I perform it as part of a sacrament.
When I witness Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea and representative of Roman justice, washing his hands, my own hands tingle. I sense his exasperation with the unwanted, irresolvable situation in front of him. I empathize with his guilt at having ordered the interrogation and torture of a human being who is accused of no crime he recognizes. Above all, I identify with his need to separate his identity, his reputation, and his career from the cruelty that has washed up on his doorstep.
In the stream and splash of water dripping from his palms and fingers, the face of Jesus is distorted. The words and bloody actions of the long night could burble into the gutter.
But the gentle words; the look in his eyes; the intersection of humanity and divinity? Pilate could never wash that away. And, neither can I.
Jesus, who suffered and died for me, may my prayers of gratitude for your sacrifice flow like a renewing stream today. Amen.
Matt McCaffrey is Interim Minister of North Madison Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Connecticut.
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