How Beautiful are the Feats

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Dave Jones,
FPCE Deacon.

Dear friends,

“As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’” (Romans 10:15)

Thanks to COVID, my family had a family car wash a couple weekends ago. Not something we’ve been doing together in recent years — too easy to drive into a Hand Wash driveway for the price of a couple cups of fancied-up coffee — and, actually, even this time, not entirely a whole-family experience: What happened was, I invited my son to come over (masked and distanced, as usual lately) and then I washed the two cars while my partners in grime had an earnest mother-son powwow over by the garage.

Not complaining!  I’ve kinda gotten into this current cleanliness gestalt we’re in. Love the smell of the soaps, the luxurious lapping of the warm bucket water over my hands, the hard scrubbing and polishing and sharp, cooling spray of the summertime lake water spewing out of the hose. I’ve been cleaning a lot of outdoor things lately, out in the driveway, chairs and benches and tables — whatever scum and crud and germs I could physically wash away — and this time it happened to be cars.

A great way to “get myself out of the house,” as I think we used to say.

And for me, personally, a satisfying life example of the kind of joy expressed in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). With clear echoes into our current sermon series, “Filled Up, Poured Out” from Romans 12, each of us busy in our own humble service in the Body of Christ. As I have been fulfilled for many years in service to the “helping ministries” among the Deacons, Friends in Christ, and Stephen Ministry. I love the work, and — even just splashing around on a family Sunday — the bright and glorious end result of the two clean cars was plenty “pay” for the day, even if only the sunny sight of two (temporarily) shiny automobiles.

“We did it!” I exulted. “Clean as can be!” “Thanks, Dad,” the others said.

Actually, I’ve never been much of a car person, clean or otherwise. I might once have felt a twinge of special teenage affection for MG sports cars and an anthropomorphic attachment with my first VW bug, but, beyond that, not so much. Cars most always have seemed to me to be more-or-less necessary money burners, value-losers right off the lot and, parked, mechanical expenses just waiting to happen.

Strangely, though, for many years I did enjoy the ritual of washing cars in summertime. While I couldn’t give a hoot if I was driving a Benz or a Beemer, I did do extra, careful shopping to make sure I had the “right” kind of soap, wax, or chamois.

So, 20 years ago or so, I was a natural for joining in with the PYGs group’s annual summer mission trip car wash. That was a regular thing, back then, the youth car wash, though various environmental and circumstantial concerns (weather, mostly) have conspired against the event over recent years. Twenty years ago, I was “in” on that activity from hookup to putting the hoses, sponges, and buckets away. Whole Saturdays would seem to fly by (with a nice noon lunch break provided by grill maestro John Powell grilling hot dogs) working with the church kids cleaning off so many — hundreds? — of the congregation’s dirty (and some not so dirty) cars. (Some folks drove through two or three times, boosting our count.)

Which, today, frankly, amazes me — that I used to be able to get down and scrub cars all day like that. With our recent “family” ablution, I was totally wiped out after washing just two cars, and not even scrubbing off the hubcaps and tires.

Back in the glory days of youth car washes, I used to be the “boss” of tires and hubcaps. Either down on hands and knees with scrub brush and sponge, or at least “guiding youth” toward the finer points of “finishing” a car with well-scrubbed, gleaming wheels.  Most of the day, up and down, cleaning and shining tires.

Couldn’t do that today. Not at all.

But, then… perhaps I exaggerate just a bit. A fair amount of our time on those Saturdays, out in the church parking lot, would be spent waiting in-between cars, standing around and waving at friends driving through, or philosophizing with fellow youth car washers as to possible character revealed by the make of the car, or the way the car was driven. (Philosophizing is one way of putting it. Palaver is another. And I’m still good at that.)

One such masterful youth philosopher-palaverer whom I recall most clearly we can call James here. (Mainly because that was, and still is, his name – courtesy of the Kath family.) I remember especially one car that was coming through James’ and my station whose driver pushed the button to roll their windows DOWN as they approached the sprayers — the driver was also leaving her sunroof wide open. Seeing this potential torrential disaster in the making, James asked me, “Why do they call it ‘common sense’ – when there’s so little of it around?”

A point I’ve kept with me ever since, thanks to James, especially when driving into a car wash.

Beyond that, James and I got to talking about what a bountiful array of beautiful, expensive cars our First Pres congregation was putting on display out in the parking lot. “Think of all the money those cars represent,” James was musing. How much money that was spent on those cars, beyond basic transportation needs, that could have been put to use in other ways of Christian mission and raw necessity. He wasn’t particularly grudging about it, but the vision did seem to tweak him with a youngster’s fresh observational pain. “Not ours to tell them how to spend their money, I guess.”

Yet, there they were, I pointed out, all of them — turning out on a Saturday at church to pay in $5 a car or whatever they wanted to pledge to pay for the total number of cars we washed that day. The kids would be making a pretty good haul that day to put toward their mission trip later in the summer. The big tip jar by the exit needed to be emptied and cash taken in to the church office several times in the course of the afternoon. Surely, there were also a lot of brightly shining Christian hearts on broad display along with their cars.

And their tires — which I tried to explain, in worldly analogy, were really like “the feet” of the early disciples who once walked so many miles around their communities and rough countrysides, serving Christ and fellow humans, without the benefit of the automobile. If they’d had cars or trucks, of any make, I’m sure they’d have been widely broadening the orbit of their “outreach” by driving instead of walking, wearing down their sandals and their sore, weary feet.  Like our Deacons today, our Friends in Christ, our Stephen Ministers — all our lay ministries out serving the Lord, we are all so often out in our cars, carrying, sharing, and living the Good News, the Word, doing “God’s work.” “So, scrub those wheels harder, James,” I might’ve said (if I’d known I’d be writing this article 20 years later). “Let’s make these feet shine!”

I think I did say that. About shining the feet. Whether James or anyone else ever heard me or understood what I was saying, we’ll just have to see.

We are serving God from the ground up, tires and all.

God bless all who come in the name of the Lord. We’ll hope and pray to see some familiar cars back in our parking lot some Sunday morning before too long.

This Sunday, Pastor Henry will be preaching on Romans 12:3-5 at our 10 a.m. online service. Weather permitting, there will be an in-person 5:30 evening service in the church parking lot again this week — no cars allowed in the lot, just attendees with their own chairs and blankets, and a carefully observed sense of social spacing. You can pre-register here to save time when you arrive.

Dave Jones
Former PYGs Tire & Hubcap “Boss”