Washing Feet:The Servant Life

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

This Sunday, we are washing feet.  This is such an intimate activity.  Our feet are a part of our bodies we do not like people messing with.  They are ticklish, they are dirty, they are not pretty, and they take a lot of abuse.  These are not the attributes we like to present to the world.

There are feet that are beautiful.  My granddaughter, Willow, has beautiful feet.  I want to hold them and kiss them.  My feet are another matter.  Walking has made my feet fat.  They have many calluses; I don’t always cut my toe nails when I should.  My ankles crack and creek from the many times I’ve sprained them playing basketball; I use to have high arches, but they have succumbed to time and gravity.  I don’t like showing my feet to people, and I certainly don’t want to present them to Jesus.

But that is exactly what we are called to do in today’s reading–to present our dirty, sensitive, ugly, abused selves to Jesus.  So often we want to get our acts together first.  I’ll present myself to Jesus once I’ve had a pedicure, once I’ve gotten my act together.  But Jesus longs to embrace us just as we are, warts and all.  And he wants us to do the same for others.

I love the part of this reading where Jesus asks his followers, “Do you know what I have done to you?”  They have had it.  If Jesus takes the place of the lowest slave and does the worst job imaginable for them, what is our excuse?  And Jesus does this knowing that one of them is going to turn on him and betray him.  Can you imagine what you would do if you knew that someone was going to betray you, that you would be killed because of it?  I would want revenge!  But Jesus feeds Judas, and washes his feet.

It is always jarring to me to read this passage in John and then continue in my readings to the book of Acts, where the disciples maintain that they are too good to wait tables!  Say what?  Apparently they didn’t know what Jesus had done to them.  I wonder if this week we might not offer to wash one another’s feet.  I know it makes us uncomfortable, but I think that is the point.  It is a symbolic action of presenting all of the parts of our life in front of Jesus to have him wash them.  It is a beautiful symbol of being able to start over, to honestly present the worst parts of our life to Jesus, and to see that he will take them on and make them (and us) clean.

Quotes for the Week

“My mother told me I was dancing before I was born.  She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months.”    Ginger Rogers

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”               Mahatma Gandhi

“Everybody can be great . . . because everybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”        Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.”  Robert Lewis Stevenson

Lesson: John 13:1-17 (NRSV)

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord– and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Questions for the Week

What is one thing about yourself that you find un-presentable?

Where are you called to serve in the world?

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