For Kirwan Uniting Church's Keep in Touch pew sheet 26 May 2019.
Leisa and I have bought each other early anniversary presents - a pair of matching electric toothbrushes. We’re so romantic. Our old toothbrush batteries died within weeks of each other. The bible mentions teeth loads of times, all except twice in a bad context (think “Gnashing of teeth”). The two exceptions are in Song of Songs 4 and 6, each time the shepherd lover says to his peasant girlfriend the same, “Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which have come up from the washing; every one bears twins, and none is barren among them.” (This compliment in chapter 4 follows straight on from my chat-up line to Leisa, “Your hair is as a flock of goats cavorting down Mt Gilead”). Although there is an uncomplimentary Year 7 variant of this, “Your teeth are like stars. They come out at night”, the shepherd’s compliment is genuine, his girlfriend’s teeth are sparkling and complete. Which you might think is strange from a time without matching electric toothbrushes or fancy toothpaste or expensive dentists.
But in fact, archaeology presents lots of evidence that ancient oral hygiene was quite good. Around 3,000BCE, Babylonians and Egyptians made the first toothbrushes from frayed twigs. A primitive diet with no junk food or sugary drinks contained nutrients and vitamins that made the teeth stronger and more resistant against cavities and other dental infections. Fibrous foods were not only good for digestion but also kept the teeth clean and healthy by flushing away food and bacterial debris from the surface of the teeth. As a result, dental plaque would not develop. The fibres in the food acted as a toothbrush to keep the teeth squeaky clean and shiny white.
You know, our lives are better for chewing on the right spiritual diet. St Paul’s closing words to the Philippians (ch 4) are “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” And by avoiding spiritual halitosis of cruel or unhelpful speech. Proverbs 16:24 “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 18:4 “A person's words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
(Next year, we’re giving each other matching nailclippers. On which, the bible is strangely silent).