This is usually a holy Thursday text but because our land is a little different this year our holy week will last most of lent. Our text tells us that this is the day of preparation it is the day before Passover it’s over and it is the day before the crucifixion. The Jewish day begins at sunset so as they sit down for dinner after the sun has set it is the start of a new day a. The Jewish day begins at sunset so as they sit down for dinner after the sun has set it is the start of a new day a. With Passover starting on the next day this makes this the very important day of well, Emma kind of like the day before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving or the day before Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve. Maybe most of Those joining you on the festivities are already in town but festivities haven’t begun yet. In modern Judaism, this is the day you eat all of the Yeasty products in your house or you pack them up and remove them so they aren’t there during Passover.
This is the day when you make sure all of the groceries have been gathered, you brine the meat, You prep the vegetables, you bake the pies, Or whatever the equivalent of Passover would be.
Jesus and his disciples have returned to Bethany to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It’s probably a simple meal with all the preparations underway for the next day. This is Jesus’s last supper with the disciples, comma but this looks different than the one we see in the other 3 Gospels. Their last meals are the Passover meal, And at those, Jesus sets the institution, the practice of communion or Eucharist at them and we don’t find that here. What We have here is a different ritual. And this one involves feet.
And we really have a hard time with feet. We keep them covered. We judge them if we think toes are weird or they’re hairy or maybe one’s feet are too big or too small. There’s a whole industry around removing calluses or skin that is built up to keep our feet safe while we walk. Like we tell our feet that they aren’t enough. Our feet are the lowest part of our bodies and it’s like there’s some shame attached to that
So back to our ancient world feet. In the ancient world, if your body could move you your feet would take the brunt of it. Run to it and if your body couldn’t move you might find yourself at a lake a pool waiting to be healed. Jesus and the disciples did a lot of traveling. they made multiple trips up and down the Jordan for the 3 years they were together. Their feet were carrying the load of their own bodies walking miles traveling and deserts nn roads traveled on by other humans and animals doing the kinds of things animals do when they are walking or standing. It’s a little unclear to me the prevalence of sandals in the ancient world but even if they existed they were pretty simple. Probably not completely covering the foot and the toes–leaving room to painfully stub toes. Probably not waterproof from the element. Probably not animal proof, from the things animals do. There was no ankle for the uneven ground or arch support for the miles of walking. When Jesus and the disciples had arrived at Bethany, they had walked, their feet carrying them through the desert, down the roads with the people and the animals. They, and their feet, were probably dirty and probably tired.
Now come on when coming into someone’s home The host would supply water and a towel for the guests to wash their own feet clean from the road and all the things that 1 might find on it. It seems a little like asking someone to take their shoes off when they come into your home to keep them from tracking dirt in and through everything, “everyone just wash your own feet. If the person were wealthy they might ask their servant maybe a slave, would wash the feet of the Guest.
This is what makes what Jesus did so shocking. Jesus took off his outer layers kneel down and started washing the disciples’ feet. This was not his child, this was not his responsibility, was aren’t even necessary by social standards. The disciples would have done this for themselves and that would have been seen as okay. And so what Jesus did was a gift.
I wonder if, is Jesus started, if the room was utterly silent as the disciples watched him and confused. Just at after before this so maybe the day before Mary had taken oral and broke it open poured it out on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair as an act of worship and devotion and extravagance and Community, I wonder if they thought of that I wonder if the room still smelled of oils and nard. Or maybe it was filled with Whispers And questions as they tried to understand. there was at least one person in the group who giggles when they’re uncomfortable They’re sitting in the back try not to make a big deal out of the fact that they are giggling.
And so giving everything about feet and about the social structure, it kind of makes sense when Simon Peter freaked out on Jesus. Simon also called Peter has a habit of doing too much he did is too much when it comes to his refusal he is too much when he wants more of the washing is too much to try and get the right answer and it’s too much to try and approve something the other people. Will spend more time at next week.
Jesus says to Peter unless I wash your feet you will never share with me. Jesus as the feet are enough.
And maybe they are enough because feet get so dirty and they were so exposed. Once a year the high priest Would enter into the holy of holy’s and one of the things about the temple is that there were spaces and spaces to Wash. Before the high priest would enter into the holy of holy’s, The most sacred place in the temple, the place where God would live, The priest would wash not everything outside of the holy of holy’s but would wash his hands and his feet. Access into the most sacred spaces into the place of the relationship with God, Required this act of cleansing.
See I believe Jesus is doing two things here. What are those is representative of Everything Jesus has been trying to do in the whole of this gospel it is about relationship. The word came became flesh and dwelt Among Us. When Jesus talks about belief it is about relationship and when Jesus talks about Sin it is about not being part of that relationship. the gospel writer has set Jesus in community and in relationship with these people including Judas, and when Judas leaves this meal knowing what he is doing and about to do knowing he is going to betray Jesus or already has oh, the gospel writer says it was night. A metaphorical night. like a darkness of the Soul because Judas has chosen not to live in the relationship that he had been invited into. And Jesus in The Gospel of John is only doing what God has been trying to do all along oh, and that is to be in relationship with creation. God loved creation so much the gods chose to live among it, as part of it. And so whether it’s because of our expectations of God, Or because of the Holiness of who God is, there is some expectation that before the disciples could walk into a relationship with God I needed to have their feet cleaned. and to make sure the day could be in relationship with God Jesus did it for them. Jesus gave them everything they needed to be in relationship with the one who created them and loves them. this is a god of extravagance and of abundance. This is a god of hospitality and welcome. This is a god of relationship and love and loves you.
The other thing is Jesus is overturning the systems of the world the way we think the world is supposed to work. Because the teacher the leader the one in charge isn’t supposed to be doing something as lowly as washing feet. and so Jesus is taking the way the world works and flipping it upside down and telling the disciples that if you want to be part of this community that is what we are going to do, we’re going to change the way this world works. And that this is what it’s going to mean to be in community together, with one another, among one another, Learning and growing with and between each other. And involves washing feet.
Jesus said the servant isn’t better than the master so don’t start thinking that you’re too good to wash feet. That you’re too good to do the menial tasks or the things that seem not glamorous. but here’s the thing I think if I would have forced the issue see, if I were to say right now we’re going to do it everybody get up you’re either going to be washing feet or you’re going to be having your feet washed and I need to stand on this side if you’re willing to decide if you’re willing to have your feet be washed I bet most of you in end up over here. we’re actually way more comfortable being the person who’s giving than the one receiving. And often I wonder if it is because giving puts us in a position of power I have something I can offer. if you getting your pedicure done you’re paying for the service is so you still are having some kind of reciprocal relationship. the making space to overturn the systems, the way we think the world ought to be, Because when Jesus says we ought to wash one another’s feet, we’re not supposed to do it because it’s what makes us the most comfortable or because it reinforces our place in the world, but rather the opposite.
We are called to do for one another what Jesus did and maybe it is some kind of washing feet. Almost every year only stopped because the pandemic, the Pope has a ritual and very Public Act of washing the feet of someone of a community of people one year it is often prisoners of varying and diverse religious backgrounds not all Christian. in the midst of the refugee crisis several years ago and you’re up he washed the feet of refugees. It is an incredibly lovely and symbolic Act of humbling the person and the station of the Pope to one who is willing to do what Jesus did. And there’s nothing wrong with it, It is beautiful and important and its symbolism but I wonder if it gets the ritual right what kind of missing the point.
We are called to do for one another what Jesus did and maybe it is some kind of washing feet. Because there is something intimate and there is something vulnerable about being at the feet of another person. I read this article years ago and I deeply believe it’s true but I can’t find it again so if you know it let me know set an awake a countries Civil War, Filled with atrocities and pain and Evil. where you weren’t sure if you could trust your neighbor even know that there was a time of peace. folks came in to teach and a train reconciliation and they realize the place to start is with the women for where the women go the country would follow and so what they did was they taught the women how to do pedicures manicures. so that they had to sit and be vulnerable with someone who may have been on the other side of the conflict because you can’t build peace if you cannot trust and if you are going to sit and let someone be in that position so close to you you are going to have to trust them. And as time went on they could have the conversations of the future they longed for their families and for their communities and for their country for themselves first they had to trust. Here’s what I imagine happens, there are relationships, and griefs shared, and anger expressed, and hope renewed, and communities transformed. And in those times It wasn’t about who had been on which side, or whether or not one was Worthy, it was about access to this transformation. it was about stepping into the light of a community.
I know it’s the wrong thing to say but I think my favorite story of foot-washing comes from Mister Rogers who is not so low-key one of my favorite people who’s ever existed on Earth. and the 1960s in the middle of segregation, when folks are fighting over interracial swimming in pools Mister Rogers embodied the story of Jesus. invited officer Clemmons see, one of the few black regular characters on TV at the time who is it turns out is also gay Mister Rogers didn’t care, to cool his feet in the pool of water outside his house right there in the middle of the neighborhood. Mister Rogers shared his towel shared his seats, and shared his time– listening to officer Clemmons, Sharing and conversation with officer Clemmons, Quietly and subtly overturning A system that said this is not the way things are supposed to be. a world that tried to tell all of us that we’re not supposed to… just that we’re not supposed to. And here’s the thing oh, we know Mister Rogers was a minister and a person who practiced deep Faith, deep faith that was rooted in community. but I didn’t interact with people children officer Clemmons trying to convince them to believe is he believed, he didn’t tell them that they were loved if… acted right, could prove they were worthy if they believe as he believed. Mister Rogers told children they were loved exactly as they are.
See, Mister Rogers embodied the god who live in flesh in Jesus and knelt before Judas and washed his feet, not because he was trying to convince them of anything, because even Judas was loved, because Jesus longs for relationship, and because Jesus made that possible and it wasn’t about being worthy… and it certainly wasn’t for the other disciples and isn’t for us to decide who is worthy of that relationship, it is already and always done.
We don’t have to wash anyone’s feet. the church historically has decided that is not the sacrament that is required but it seems to me that it is of vital importance that we know if we are making room and making space and making available and teaching what it means to be in a relationship with God to everyone. and we need to know if there are things that we are doing that are blocking that. if we have decided we add Emmanuel or we the church Universal have decided but not everyone is Worthy. Or that we get to decide when somebody should be allowed to have access. line Jesus note to wash the disciple’s feet had already made clear he would be the temple at which we would worship and he says here that he is already getting access to everyone that doesn’t matter but this relationship with God is available to everyone. God in Jesus has done the things necessary for us to be in relationship with God and so we are called to do the things necessary for others to be in a community and relationship with us. Even the one who would betray him was there, And so it is not up to us to decide who is worthy, but we build community and we build relationships and we build welcome
And as a church of a great welcome, Emmanuel, because you have and we do, but we, all of us, also have a responsibility to speak up when the welcome is being denied to others even if it’s not my house. and it might make us vulnerable and it might make us uncomfortable but that is how we washed the feet of each other, and everyone else. by making space, by making access, by not controlling what we think it means to worship until of God and to be loved by God. is how we wash each other’s feet is by sharing space by sitting next to one another and hearing the stories of people who are so unlike us that we find nothing familiar in their narrative but we fine perhaps we are changed by it.
It’s vulnerable and it’s uncomfortable and it’s about making space. So here’s what I think that means or how we might live our metaphorical washing of feet. redo it by our words by our acts and by our symbols; by what we say and by speaking out, by what we do and by showing up, by being making space and being known. It means showing up at school board meetings and Town Hall meetings and Community meetings and elections and events. and not just showing up passively but being a present, being a voice for those in our community who often feel too vulnerable to speak up. Let’s go together. It means when somebody says what Jesus really said was all lives matter we can stand on solid ground the Jesus always had a special place for those on the edges, for those without power and privilege, and we should, too. It means taking a risk and believing in the abundant love and generosity of God that we will have enough to do the good of caring for all of God’s people who cross our path, and believing that the sharing generously out of that abundance will not leave us empty but be infinitely filled by the infinite God.
Honestly, I think subtlety is complacency. Because our welcome is meaningless if no one knows they’re invited or that they are welcome, that this and that we are a safe place. It means we put our banner up in the spring Rainbow on it means we need to have a real serious conversation about hanging a flag. it means we are looking for someone to be the organizing Force PFlag so that we can throw our support behind them. maybe we get a black lives matter sign maybe we collect banned books and make it known that that is what we are doing here maybe, maybe we host drag queen Story Hour. maybe hang a large black lives matter sign Maybe we finish our work of being fully accessible to people with all abilities cognitive functioning and children of all ages. And maybe we recognize that there is room for us to grow and it change instead of forcing people To fit into what we’ve decided is the way we worship God
It is about living love. As this meal Jesus was having with his disciples and his friends would go on, Jesus gave his disciples a calling to love one another that is how the world will know who they are, whose they are, who they follow, and how they long to live in the world. And that is how Lake Country will know who we are, whose we are, who we follow, and how we want to live in this world by how we love in our words and our acts and our symbols; and how we speak out and how we show up how we make space. It’s about love and service and finding our ways to wash feet, and be washed in return.