In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Monday before Ash Wednesday is called Clean Monday and the first week of Lent is often called clean week. The idea is based on the verse above. Though the dates for Eastern Lent (called Great Lent) and Easter are different from those we use in the Western church, I think it is a day well worth meditating on.
This is the traditional day for spring cleaning and today I plan to clean out my office space and set up my sacred space ready for Lent.
As I reflected on this, I realized that this desire to clean things up is far more significant and more intentional than we realize.
If we want to do a thorough job of cleaning, first we must notice that something is dirty, not the way it is meant to be. Second, we must make time to do something about it. Third, we must take action. Cleaning is a very intentional activity. Dirt does not disappear without a concerted effort to get rid of it. Sometimes it requires a lot of work. We need to recruit help and purchase supplies.
In some ways, cleaning is a thankless job because a space never remains clean. We need to do the job over and over again. However, hopefully in the back of our minds is our vision of what the space could look like if it was clean and its inspiration keeps us cleaning.
What is your response?
Read through the scripture above several times. Think of an area in your home that you would like to see cleaned up. Visualize in your mind how you would like it to look. What would you need to do to accomplish that? What are the parallels you see in your life to the physical cleansing you need to embark on?
As I read through the Isaiah passage, I was struck by the three dimensions of spiritual cleanliness – personal cleanliness, in our attitudes towards the most vulnerable in our world, and towards the earth. Cleanliness is not just some inner resolve, it involves outward actions too.
As you read through these verses, what came to your mind? In what ways could you “clean up your act”?
1. Personally – what dirt do you notice in your personal life that needs to be cleaned up?
2. Towards the most vulnerable – are there dirty corners in your attitudes towards those at the margins? Do you take advantage of cheap labour, show contempt for the homeless or conflict with those of other ethnic backgrounds? How could you work for justice and compassion for the world’s vulnerable?
3. Towards the earth – healthy food and a healthy earth require good organic production methods, responsible consumption and conservation of the earth’s resources. What changes could you make in your lifestyle that result in more healthy food and a healthy earth?
Read through the Isaiah passage again and listen to the song below. Listen for God’s promptings. What other areas of your life or your neighbourhood is God asking you to clean up during this season? What are the intentional actions you need to take to make that possible?