Clean Slate

Our theme this week is “Jesus is forgiving.”

I grew up with a childhood ritual that some of you will know well, and others will find bizarre. How many of you were ever asked by a schoolteacher to go outside and “clap erasers?” Chalk residue would build up in the erasers until kids were chosen to go outside and smack the erasers together, or against walls, or occasionally against other children, to remove the excess chalk dust. The erasers would make a satisfyingly dull smacking sound as we created clouds of chalk dust until we looked like Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons.

Teachers would use chalkboards to impart information. Students would observe and (hopefully!) remember the information. Sometimes the students would get to write on the chalkboard as part of the learning process. Over time, the erasers got full of chalk from erasing all the things that students were supposed to remember. The chalkboard would be wiped clean, or more accurately smeared into an unrecognizable dim smudge, before the next lesson.

Today, a “clean slate” means a fresh start or a new beginning, but the term comes from the days when actual slate was used in place of a chalkboard. A “clean slate” is like a clean chalkboard, wiped clean and ready for what’s next.

Our passage this week includes the event when men lowered their paralyzed friend through a roof to meet Jesus face to face. 

Since they could not find a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the mat through the roof tiles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus. Seeing their faith He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:19-20 HCSB)

The goal of a classroom chalkboard (or whatever its modern high-tech equivalent is called today) is to impart information that students will learn from and dwell on long after it is erased. It’s different when Jesus erases our sins. We can for sure learn from them, but I humbly submit that we should not dwell on them, because that chalk has not just been erased from the board, but fully clapped out of the erasers and sent into the wind.

When Jesus forgives us we do not become perfect, but our slates are clean. What new story shall we write?

By Mark Stuart

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