Sing Happy Birthday Twice!

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 2, 2012

“…they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands…” (Mark 7:2)

A long, long time ago my little kid ears heard Mom warn, “Before you come to the table, don’t forget to clean up.”

After dashing to the bathroom and splashing tap water on my hands for two seconds, I was good to go!

*     *     *

My wife watches me prep chicken thighs for a recipe and wonders, “Will you be washing your hands afterwards?” Behind her gentle voice and slight smile, I discern her inner thoughts:  I don’t want to die from salmonella poisoning.

I mutter, “Of course.” After squeezing a dollop of soft soap into the middle of my palm, I wring my fowl-besmirched fingers under the water, demonstrating compliance and love.

*     *     *

I’ve had four knee arthroscopies, several colonoscopies, cortisone injections and surgery to repair seriously broken bones. Each time, as the physician leans over me—and in several cases just before anesthesia transports me to Slumberland’s zzzzipcode—I muse, “Hope an autoclave was used for all those sharp objects.”

*     *     *

Earlier this summer I guest-preached for a church awaiting the arrival of their new pastor. As I glanced through the bulletin before worship, a member of the congregation fussed with the communion elements. She nudged me and gestured toward the small bottle of hand sanitizer propped on the pulpit.

“You can clean your hands before touching the bread.”

I nodded.

She continued, “One of our members insisted it be done or he’d leave church.”

Another nod. I considered humming, They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love. [BTW, here’s a nice vid of this song…note the number of hands in the images!]

She continued, “He left a few years ago, but we still do it.”

Ah! From threats to tradition!

*     *     *

Shortly after starting work at hospice this year, a fellow employee demonstrated the proper way to wash hands:  lather with soap, use plenty of water and vigorously rub your hands together for as long as it takes to sing back-to-back versions of “Happy Birthday to You.” As a bonus for those of you unsure of the words for one of America’s favorite songs, I’ve included Marilyn Monroe’s memorable salute to President Kennedy on his forty-fifth birthday. No, no, don’t thank me. Just slop soap on your hands, turn on the tap and watch Ms. Monroe serenade the leader of the free world . . . twice.

After that, you’ll be . . . good to go! Continue reading →