Dog Crap, the Temple, and Love

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Friday in the week of Proper 24, Year 1 (Pentecost 21, 2015)

Ezra 3:10 ~ When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel . . . .

So I haven’t written one of these random meditations for a week . . . and instead of starting this one early in the morning as I usually do (so that they are sort of sleep befuddled first impressions of the Daily Office lessons more than anything else), I went out to do yard work.

I was reminded of another verse of scripture: “You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement.” (Dt 23:12-13) We have a “dog yard” on the west side of our house; it is our “designated area outside the camp” and it is my privilege to clean it up every Friday on my day off. After doing that, I mow the lawn.

The yard clean up is the foundation, if you will, of my day off. After that is accomplished, I can relax and enjoy the day; I can rejoice and praise the Lord. Foundations, it seems to me, are like that. The work of digging footings, laying foundation stones (or blocks of concrete, or pumping in concrete), making sure the work is level, providing for proper drainage, and so forth, is all very hard work. And then it gets covered up and no one ever sees or thinks about it again, unless something goes wrong. Picking up dog crap is like that. It’s gross and unpleasant work, and no one ever thinks about it . . . unless it doesn’t get done and the stuff piles up. Getting that unpleasant but necessary work done, the work that makes everything else possible, the very important and absolutely necessary work that no one notices when all is well, that is good reason to praise the Lord.

This was not, of course, my initial thought reading the lessons this morning; this only came to me after the dog yard was cleaned and the lawn was mowed. My initial thought was a question: Did St. Paul have this scene in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”? (1 Cor 13:1) Was he thinking of noisy temple rituals when he wrote of actions lacking the foundation of love?

For love is the true foundation of all good. On its website, a Canadian food ministry in which the Anglican Church of Canada is a part includes a prayer beginning with these words: “Creator God, we know that love is the foundation of creation and all life, your love and ours. We know that all things are possible with love – that the least becomes the most important, the last becomes the first.” Done with love even the grossest and most unpleasant of jobs, even most hidden and little recognized work, becomes the most important. Picking up dog shit, cleaning up the latrine, digging ditches, laying stones . . . done with love they are the foundation of the temple and worthy of praise and celebration.