Monday, August 03, 2009

Holy Pedicure

OK, I'll be honest, this week's study passage is one of those that can make me feel uncomfortable. It's the washing of the disciple's feet by the Lord Jesus. (John 13:1-17) It's not uncomfortable because Jesus is bending down, wrapped in a towel, taking the form of a servant to wash the dirty feet of His followers. No, it's uncomfortable to me for two other reasons:

First, is it where Jesus tells His followers, that as He, their Lord and teacher, have washed their feet they should do likewise. (John 13:14)

Second, is that we have taken the above directive and developed it into some sanctified ritual. By that I mean, in some faith traditions there is a regular foot-washing ceremony, like the regular Communion services we celebrate. Or, if we have not created a "special event" we have spiritualized Jesus' actions and words saying that this means we are to have a "servant's heart" in regards to our dealing with each other and the world-at-large.

I believe that both of these miss the boat.

To make the act nothing more than ceremony we rip it from the reality of life. (Sometimes I believe we have done the same with Communion, but that's for another blog.) When the foot-washing is done within the walls of the sanctuary it becomes sanitized and weak, not really accomplishing the task for which it was designed, that is the actual removal of dirt from a persons feet so that they would not be offensive to others reclining at the table.

When we spiritualize the act it becomes too easy to think we are humbling ourselves to the menial task of a servant, when in reality we seldom bend far enough to truly take the servant's posture. If that sounds judgmental it is only because I am looking into the mirror of self-evaluation as I type this blog!

It seems to me that if Jesus was only referring to the actual washing of another person's feet, then those who are professional pedicurist must be some of the most spiritual, Jesus-modeling people around. Like most things within the church today, we run the risk of "professionalizing ministry" and thus loosing the deeper truth our Lord and Savior was seeking to impart to us.

So, what is Jesus teaching? Well, lest I give away all my thoughts for this week's coming Sunday message, allow me just a few thoughts to wet-your-whistle, and maybe get other ideas following. Some lessons for me from the Master.
  • Keep your eyes open to the practical needs of those around you.
  • Seek to offer down-to-earth practical help.
  • The Jesus-life is sometimes nothing more than dirty work.
  • Jesus is not only my Master, but my Model for how to live.
  • Humility comes easier when you know Who you belong to, and where you're going.
  • Being a servant means stripping off that which hinders.
Well, that's enough to keep me busy. How about you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Randy,

This is a passage that has had me wondering from time to time. However I’m still wondering what it is about. My mind speculates a bit on its significance, but overall I’ve sort of let the passage slide out of sight. I’m glad you are thinking about this incident and will share your thoughts on Sunday.

Since Jesus was with his disciples for around three years, say 1000 days. And - as far as we know - on just one of those 1000 days he washed the disciple’s feet. And then when he did wash his disciples’ feet the purpose of the washing of their feet seemingly was done not to actually clean their feet, but as an “example” of something important that they were to go and do likewise. Therefore, I don’t think Jesus’ foot washing actually has to do with foot washing. Do you think women disciples are to figuratively wash each others feet too, or is this just for the guys?

I know the bottom sides of our bare feet are more easily seen by others than by ourselves (because the point of view is different). Perhaps Jesus was saying to his followers by this foot washing activity that Christians can be helpful to one another by gently pointing out problem areas (dirt) in others – that is, if there are any areas that are obvious - that might not be obvious to the person in the wrong. This would not be done to be critical, of course, but to be helpful. It’s part of loving one another, even though what is shared may not be graciously received for consideration.

Your brain-storming comment that if this passage really has to do with foot-washing then a professional podiatrist would be among the most spiritual is good thinking! Gary