Mopping the Kitchen on Sunday as Worship
I was washing the dishes after Sunday brunch on New Year’s Day. We had an impromptu lunch with family and friends after the church service, and once the table was cleared I sent everyone on their way despite offers to help me. The dishwasher was full already and there’s only room for one standing at the kitchen sink.
I’m not a martyr. Let me make that clear. I wanted to wash those dishes. Alone.
Twice this December I have been ill - the ‘adult-with-a-fever’ kind of sick -and both times within a few days of a party I was hosting at my house. The upside of being a planner is I had lists made and knew the tasks that had to be done and had done a few things ahead of time. The downside of being a planner is…I had some lists made and knew the tasks that had to be done… and how unrealistic it was to think my body could do it in its current state. I had to have help!
The first time, when I could hardly walk around the house because of a reaction to the drug that was supposed to be killing the infection I had, I broke down crying and told my husband, “I think we are going to have to cancel this.” Inside I was crying to God, “Make haste to help me.”
The next morning, the pain had subsided some, the fever was gone, and I had a text from a friend saying, “I’m free all day. I want to come be in your kitchen tonight and help you.” God was a short blonde, early sixties, who knows her way around giving a party in someone else’s kitchen.
My friend, who will want to remain nameless here, has a husband, four adult children, lots of grandchildren, a dog named Tiger 2, a car, and appears to be an ordinary human (well, maybe an extraordinary human): but still, she’s a person. Except that night - She was bread and wine -transformed for me. She was strength, ability, and power coming in my place, serving me, strengthening me in my weakness.
My brain wasn’t clear and the night is a blurry memory for me, but my husband and the guests seemed to think the party was just fine. The one word I remember thinking when she walked out the door afterwards was “Eucharist.” I’d been fed something sacred.
Only a few weeks later I came down with another illness, unrelated to the former, but for two nights I went to bed with chills and fever. On the third day, I was scheduled to give a luncheon for the daughter of a friend. In times like this I’m tempted (and I usually give way) to self-pity, to asking why, to being angry and frustrated that I can’t force my body to agree with my will. And after that, when it has done me no good, I pray. Sort of.
“Help me!” is about all I can muster and underneath is the thought “You could’ve prevented this, you now.” It’s relinquishment and pleading and confession all at once.
In my discomfort and inconvenience, I can’t remember that God is love. Somehow this is good for me? Working good in me?
I awoke the day of the luncheon feeling somewhat better. My daughter’s plans to be out of town changed at the last minute and she became my right arm in the kitchen. Along with our cohost’s help, the luncheon went as planned.
Themes of dependence and humility seem to emerge repeatedly in my life. In needing others I am privileged to see the beauty of their gifts on display. White light refracted through a prism is seen as a rainbow of colors. The light in my daughter or my cohost is a different color than mine. The spectrum is more beautiful than monochrome.
So washing the dishes alone, I found myself thankful for the image of bread and wine that crossed my mind in church today. We all need the same One thing. And we need each other.
I also realized I was enjoying myself in the hot soapy water, thankful to be well enough to stand and wash those dishes from which my family had been served. So I decided to mop because for the first time in a month I actually felt like mopping my kitchen. (Not to say it hadn’t been mopped all month! It has and I was grateful for the help!) But in celebration of being both helped when I needed it and well enough in the moment to do things for myself again, I mopped. Not one minute of it felt like work.
It’s not a traditional offering, I realize, and some might call it ‘working’ on the day of rest; but for me it was a full-heart response of gratitude and celebration…I think that’s the definition of worship.