Twenty First Century Foot Washing.

June 1, 2011

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I have participated in foot washings before.  While they can be humbling, and thought-provoking, the experience can just as easily become trite, ritualistic and more than a bit uncomfortable, but usually for the wrong reasons.  I’m not sure that Jesus meant we should wash each others feet to receive blessings.  I think the servant/master thing was the point he was trying to make.

Instead of foot washing, how about washing a single mom’s car, or clean the yard of an elderly couple.  Why not help an overworked family with laundry our housecleaning.  These are just a couple of examples of what a foot washing might look like in the twenty-first century.

I’ve been metagrobalizing this whole idea of the servant/shepherd, and I think, in an age of shoes and clean socks, foot washing just looks different.

As a servant shepherd, the way I lead is in the way I serve.  I remember in one of my past lives, simply “being there” even when my offered help wasn’t really much help, was appreciated.  The people I have worked with know that there are some things I do well, and some things I, well, I hurt myself.  But being willing to hurt myself in the service of the King, and in assisting someone is more important than cleaning feet.  It’s more important than doing things well.

Of course I know when to get out-of-the-way as well.  I mean, if I am really not helping, I may be hindering, right?  So as a servant shepherd we need to be discerning.  Sometimes just coming alongside someone who is doing it right and better, and simply thanking them is the best thing to do.  Bringing coffee, a Coke, a box of donuts can be more help than getting in the way.  Sometimes the servant shepherd serves and shepherds best by simply providing a meal.

There are lots of ways to wash feet, but really it’s about our attitude more than anything else.  Whether its literal foot washing or something more significant, like laying down our lives for our friends, servant shepherds are called on to sacrifice.

Laying down our lives…that’s something we are rarely asked to do if we are not in the armed forces or public safety.  But I think even that may be open to a twenty-first century interpretation.  We won’t be asked to lay down our lives more than once, and I hope I am prepared if it happens.  But I would bet that Jesus will ask me again and again to set aside (lay down) my agenda (my life) for my friends.  Oooooh, now that’s a tough one.

This talk of foot washing and life laying is really all about emulating THE Shepherd Servant when he said, “Not my will but yours be done.”

We can do that with dirty feet, and it usually means getting our hands dirty too.


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