I recently watched a teaching video about the Last Supper where the pastor demonstrated how first century eaters would have reclined at a dining table and how a foot washing would work. He said that sandals would have been left over by the entrance. And because the story is told so often, we already know that it was a servant’s job to wash the feet of the guests.
Many churches still practice this act on Holy Week. Mine does. To be fair, our pastors kept warning people, when they announced the Triduum services, to “come prepared on Thursday to have your feet washed.” Ever been to a foot washing when people weren’t prepared? A little grace there to give people a forewarning, huh?
Part of me thinks the meaning is lost on 21st century western Christians to do this, and the other part of me thinks it is more needed now than ever. It’s more than an object lesson, and more than a biblical gesture. The powerful and “in charge” stoop to turn the tables over, to be counter-cultural, make a point, and put themselves last.
Christ did this, and commanded us in the same way to serve others. Do we? In my life, i feel like “serving others” is the side dish to the main meal. I’d like to pretend it’s a way of life but who am i kidding. Churches develop outreach and serving committees to do stuff for the poor or marginalized – and it’s part of what we get to do a few times a year. Or maybe it becomes a habit when we take up the cross on average weekends and average days. I saw one of my students post a picture of “Blessing Bags” her family packed for homeless people -hygiene kits that packed snacks, socks, deodorant, soap, etc. for people on the intersections begging. I don’t think that was a program, i think the family just went out and did that.
So we serve, and we let people serve us. Taking off our shoes, feeling super uncomfortable, embarrassed, wondering what others think. It’s good to be served. It’s good to be washed by someone else. Others attended to Christ’s body when it came off the cross. They did useless work of preparing it for burial – since not only his spirit but his body was about to rip out of our world. His world.
Divine love – stooping, washing, drying. Sending.