Summary: Sermon preached at a community Good Friday service in Richmond, Virginia
“Good Friday Community Meditation”
I don’t know what things have been like around your house, but around the Nieporte’s’ household, we’ve been focusing on SPRING CLEANING.
Now throughout the year we do clean the house. We mop floors, vacuum the carpet, and clean the tub and the sinks, that sort of thing. But each spring the cleaning gets much more intense. Each spring everything in the house gets the once over. Furniture is moved around so we can reach those otherwise impossible to reach areas. Closets and cabinets are cleaned out and rearranged. Frames are removed from the walls and wiped clean.
The target of this crusade is the dust fragment.
Just the other day, my wife Jeana said: “Where does all of this dust come from?”
That left me with a choice. I could continue cleaning – or I could do some internet research to help answer this most perplexing question.
Where does dust come from?
One site said it came from the dust bunny. Another said the Dirt Devil. Still another said that dust falls out of our navels. Now at that point I was having fun, but I knew better than bring these answers to my wife. So I kept exploring.
Much of the dust in our homes comes from the outside. Outside there are pollutants – dirt, pollen and dozens of other things – all which contribute to dust in the air. When the outside air comes into our homes, these dust particles comes with it.
But not all dust comes from the outside. Sometimes dust is home-grown. It can consist of animal dander and fibers from clothing, carpet, and virtually everything else in the home. Still, these are not the primary sources of home-grown dust. As it turns out, that grey dust that we battle each spring comes largely dead home skin cells that we have shed and which tend to gather on home surfaces. It is estimated that humans lose 30,000 – 40,000 dead skin cells each and every minute. These tiny flakes of skin account for more than seventy percent of the dust in our home.
Maybe this is what the writers of the Burial Rites in the Book of Common Prayer had in mind. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? A Priest or a Minister stands near a casket, holding a fist full of dirt and dust in her hands, and as she drops it to the ground she recites these words:
… we commend to Almighty God our brother (or sister) and we commit the body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The more I thought about the dust that covered the nooks and corners of my home, the less I wanted to clean it. This dust is the stuff of my life and that of my family. It’s sacred material. At least that’s what I tried to tell my wife. It didn’t work. “Clean up your dead skin!” she said.
I heard some words from Rob Bell not too long ago that got me thinking about DUST and how it relates to the call of Jesus upon the lives of his followers. Rob says that Jewish education in the time of Jesus was made up primarily of three sections.
Bet Safar - Usually from the ages five to ten, it is a time taught in the synagogue by the Rabbi. During this time, good Jewish boys memorized the Torah - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They memorized it all by the age of ten!
Bet Talmud – At age ten or so, young boys would begin plying the trade of their father, working in the family business. The best of the best, however, were invited to progress on pass Bet Safar into Bet Talmud. This would continue on from the age of ten to about fourteen. During this time, the student would continue his memorization of the Psalms, prophets, and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). It wasn't uncommon in that day for a good Jewish boy to have the Old Testament memorized by the age of fourteen.
Bet Midrash – At age 14 or so, student would have a choice. They could return home to the family business, or they could apply to become disciples of a Rabbi and enter into a process called Bet Midrash. Now, not everyone was accepted. This was for the best of the best of the best. This was training in the interpretation of the Torah, answering the question: “How does one live out the law of God in today’s world?” The Rabbi’s teaching or rules for interpretation were called the Rabbi’s “yoke.”
When a student made application to be a disciple of a Rabbi, he would be grilled by that Rabbi to see if the boy really had what was necessary to take the Rabbi’s yoke upon him and learn from him. If the Rabbi thought that an applicant was unqualified, he would send the student home to enter the family business. But if the Rabbi thought this young student had real potential - if the Rabbi that this young man was really the best of the best of the best, the Rabbi would accept him as a student.