Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Feet

What do you know about Jesus' Last Supper? Maybe you automatically think of Leonardo Di Vinci's famous fresco or that it was the first celebration of Holy Communion. Maybe you think of Judas being called out during the meal and fleeing or that it took place in the "upper room." But as John tells it in his Gospel, it is also the place where Jesus gives a new commandment in both words and actions.

His new commandment is this: "that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34)." Love now defines the relationship between friends in community.

Jesus models such love with the act of washing feet. Typical in a Passover Seder is the ritual of washing hands, done by a woman present. Jesus does the washing at the Last Supper, and not of the hands, but of the feet. No act is too lowly when it comes to loving and serving your friends. He commands his disciples to do likewise: "So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14)."

Very few Christians literally wash feet today. If they do... it's the feet of their young children or grandchildren, or it's the feet of their grandparent or loved one who no longer is physically able. The service of literally washing feet is done for those closest to us and not to just anyone.

Of course Christians are constantly "washing feet" metaphorically. In their service to others Christians are making a difference by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and caring for those in despair.

But I think there is an element that is missed when we look at "washing feet" only this way. And no, I'm going to propose we replace handshakes with feet washing. But looking at the words reported by John its pretty clear that Jesus commands "you also ought to wash one another's feet." In order for that to happen those in the community not only need to pick up a cloth and soap to wash their friends' feet, but they need to take off their shoes and allow others to wash their feet.

Jesus' command is not only to serve but to be vulnerable. Generally when we "wash feet" in the figurative sense we do it from a position of privelage. We share from our abundance:
- I have food so I'll give some to you.
- I have clothes so I'll give some to you.
- I have a home so I'll help you with shelter tonight.
- I feel blessed so I'll listen your problems.

But communial feet-washing means all are also called to take their shoes and let those dirty, stinky piggies out in the open. We may have food, clothes, a home and blessings in abundance, but we still need community... we still need love. Can we be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that? When we take our shoes off we open ourselves up to criticism and laughter. When we take our shoes off we submit ourselves to the hands of our friend who is answering the call to serve you.

Jesus commands us to "wash feet" and we do that often in the metaphorical sense. But when is the last time you allowed your friends in Christ to wash your feet? Probably never in the literal sense... but I would wager it's been a long time in the metaphorical sense as well.

Being called to love one another in Christian community means both serving and being served. Metaphorically speaking: pick up that wash cloth, squirt a little soap... and take your shoes off. You will find Christ in the heart of the gathering.

Monday, March 29, 2010


While the word "holy" brings to mind ideas of the divine or living according to a highly righteous moral code, at its core the word "holy" actually refers to setting something apart as not being ordinary. When ground is holy or water is holy it stands apart from the ordinary water or ground we see every day. Holy water would be used for a special purpose, greater than ordinary stuff flushed down the toilet. Holy ground might stand out as being of more significance than the ordinary ground we mow on a warm summer day and Fido uses first thing in the morning. The Bible is holy because it contains spiritual truth about God found nowhere else. This week... this Holy Week... is holy because even as the world continues to move in its humdrum ordinary ways this week stands out because of the holy actions Jesus lived, out of divine love for us.

Sure it is Holy Week, but when we look out our windows everything seems to look the same. Most of us we continue to go to work. Our children continue to go to school. We need to fill up our gas tanks and decide whether we want half and half with our coffee. Yeah... it doesn't seem all that different out there. Children are being born at the local hospital. Couples are deciding enough is enough and divorce is the only answer. Crimes will continue to be reported in the newspaper. The ordinary still surrounds us.

But in the midst of the ordinary we are given a divine gift. All is not ordinary with the world. There is a spiritual truth that impacts our lives... that we miss in the midst of the constant beat of common life and ordinary weeks. The gift of a Holy Week is that even as life continues to tick away we are reminded that God broke into the fabric of time through a Savior. God is united with us through Christ. And Christ becomes one with us fully through the cross. A holy event to be sure. You don't see that every day.

The gift of the holy... whether it be water, ground, the Bible or an entire week... is that the holy reminds us of the divine. Since our minds are all too often stuck in the physical we better have some physical moments of the holy that wake us up to the presence of God in our lives. God is always guiding us, but we tend to forget that.

Allow the rhythms of Holy Week and the opportunities to worship on days and at times you don't usually worship wake up within you the presence of Christ. While surrounded by the ordinary you can experience the holy.