One of the stories I love to tell is about my wife’s grandfather. He grew up in England and moved to the United States after World War II. His dad was a preacher so he grew up in a variety of church communities. Many of his congregations practiced communion that might surprise us. Instead of serving bread and wine every week, they washed each other’s feet. And they did so because of this passage from the Gospel According to John.
When I tell this story, people react the same way: disbelief. The idea of washing each other’s feet every week is shocking in our context. Our feet are very personal and we don’t want to touch a stranger’s feet. But I think our real struggle is having someone touch ours. When Peter cried out to Jesus, we understand the raw emotion he displayed. When he tells Jesus to wash his entire body, we instinctively feel like Peter is right. Peter knew that Jesus was doing something problematic. In his culture, only slaves washed people’s feet. It was the person who had no control over their own body that was forced to clean other people’s feet. The feeling of discomfort was outsourced to the one who could not say no. And the one having their feet washed would know, even if it made them feel uncomfortable, that at least they weren’t a slave. By the simple act of washing feet, Jesus showed just how intimately connected we are to God. And Jesus modeled how God will always care for us.
I know that foot washing makes us uncomfortable. And some of us can’t easily remove our socks, tights, and shoes during church. That’s why tonight we are offering an additional option. There is a place in tonight’s service where you will be invited to wash each other’s hands. The simple act of pouring water on each other’s hands and drying them will be a sign of your commitment to one another. And we are called to that commitment because Jesus will always be committed to us.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Maundy Thursday, 3/29/2018.