By Rev. Jeff Harter
As a child, I disliked washing dishes. Even now it is not my favorite pastime. That’s why we have a dishwasher. Yet, dirty dishes can remind us of how richly we are blessed.
I once heard of a minister and his wife who lived among very poor people. Once when they were hosting a local family for dinner, a small boy remarked with amazement, “Wow, everything matches!” Not only the abundance of food at the table, but even the matching dishes, seemed to him a sign of wealth.
Some people have a tradition of returning thanks after the meal, using the words of Psalm 136:1, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever.” What better time is there to give thanks for our abundance of food than when we are cleaning the empty (or nearly empty) plates, bowls and cups? This is not only so on those special occasions when we use our matching dishes, but at every meal.
Washing dishes also makes me think of Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God’s goodness is evidenced by all the material goods we have.
Sadly, many people don’t have enough to eat. So God blesses us with resources that offer assistance to those in need. Though we must admit, many of us eat too much. God’s mercy is another blessing. This is His gracious disposition toward us, by which he graciously forgives our sins and washes away all of our sins and regrets. He freely blesses us with joy, hope, forgiveness, peace, meaning and love. And the greatest blessing will be when our Savior graciously receives his faithful children to our home in heaven.
When we focus on God’s goodness and mercy, we are also blessed with contentment. The word contentment brings my mind back to the topic of washing dishes. The dishwater itself can be an object lesson that shows us how we can be content and give thanks regardless of our situation. As the light hits the dishwater, we can see tiny rainbows in each of the bubbles. Rainbows are created from sunshine and water. We get rainbows in life when God blesses us through both the sunshine of happiness and through the water of tears. Rather than focusing only on the problems and the tears, we can focus on the rainbows of blessings that God sends us.
In Romans 8:28 we are reminded that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This verse tells us two things. First, God is with us and works in all circumstances and situations, whether they seem positive or negative to us. God remains with his faithful people at all times to give them strength, courage, and protection from anything that would harm the soul. As the people of Israel were about to go into the promised land, Joshua assured them, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Second, Romans 8:28 reminds us that God has a plan for us. From our perspective, God’s plan isn’t always clear. In fact, we don’t always know which circumstances are good and which are bad. A sickness or injury is inconvenient and at times painful, but God can use that situation to slow us down, give us time for meditation and prayer, and draw us closer to himself. Even death, for the believer, becomes a passageway to eternal life.
Washing dirty dishes is not the most pleasant task for most of us. But in that task we can learn some lessons. We learn that we are blessed more than we might realize. We learn that with the pleasant things we often have to accept the things that are not so pleasant as part of God’s plan. And finally, that with God working through all situations, he can make rainbows appear in the sky, in the dishwater, and in our lives.
The Rev. Jeff Harter is pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church, Sharon.