The Master Cleanser
a meditation for Unlent

Last month I was washing the dishes after dinner when I heard a knock at the door. I answered it, and there stood my upstairs neighbor, Nick, with his arms full of vegetables and half a block of plastic-wrapped tofu.

"You want these?" he asked.
"Sure," I said "you leaving town for a while?"
"Nope... The Master Cleanser," he said.

I first heard of this detoxification diet some time ago when an old friend told me about it. It became a popular craze in the 70's, especially among newagey types. You might be familiar with some version of it under the name "Lemonade Diet." The basic idea of detoxing is to fast and to only drink certain liquids that will aid your body in flushing out the toxins that it normally stores. There are hundreds of these diets. You can even go on professionally organized detox retreats.

I don't know if such things have been shown to improve health or not. Maybe one day I'll start to feel unhealthy, and look into it. For now, I have to confess that I'm in miraculously good shape for a 33 year old non-exercising, bacon-loving, scotch-drinking, smoker. And, you know, every once in a while a neighbor gives me a carrot and some tofu. So I feel pretty good about my toxin levels.

But chemical toxins aren't the only sort that threaten us mortal beings. There are powerful psychological toxins, for instance. These are much harder to get rid of than chemical ones, but there are self-help books for various emotional toxins too.

The Bible speaks of sin as a kind of toxin, a dark defiling agent that enslaves and kills, worse than any other poisonous addiction. But the Bible is no self-help book. In fact it tells us there's no diet, no methodology, no cure that we can apply ourselves to make us whole, clean, or alive again. We're in dire need of a cleanser that reaches to the depths of our being, but only the Master Himself can apply it to us.

The really interesting thing about this true Master Cleanser is that the cleansing agent He applies to us is... Himself. And once He washes us in Himself, we are definitively cleansed. No matter how much uncleanness we step into or consume, while we have Him (or rather, while He has us) we still remain ultimately clean. And we are miraculously made cleaner and more clean in His continual application of Himself to us by His Spirit, especially in His Word and Sacrament.

Diets can be terribly hard (or, so I've heard). Dieters tell me it's helpful when you diet with others. But with all the self-help material out there, rightly encouraging us to take responsibility for our lives together, the hardest thing might be to admit that we can't help ourselves, or each other, when it comes to ultimately getting rid of sin. Only the Master can eliminate that toxin along with it's deadly effects and addictive power. Thankfully, He is indeed the Master, and His cleansing is irresistible, irreversible, and reaches to the core and totality of our being and community. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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