A ritual from long ago, a left-over Sunday School lesson or an ancient worn out, meaningless religious doctrine. Who thinks about a thing like that now?
Have you ever had your feet washed or washed the feet of another? I will tell you my experience of both.
Picture a large, sanctuary-heart pine pews, old brick floors with a raised pine altar. The room is bathed in light from candle sconces. It is Maundy Thursday.
Beside two altar chairs, one for the Priest and the other for the Bishop are a jar of water, a wash basin and a white linen towel. The Bishop comes down to the lower center of the altar area and asks anyone who is willing to come and sit in one of the two chairs.
I have heard in the night’s teaching, reading along in my Bible about Jesus washing the feet of his reluctant disciples. I watch to see what the few others who are there will do. I expect those who go up are about to have their feet washed.
Hearing and reading about it is fine and well, but when it comes down to “the act itself”, it puts one on the spot. I began to realize this was a not a spectator arena. I was invited to take part-participate-enter into the scene that we had just encountered in scripture. I like Jesus’ disciples, was reluctant.
This was too intimate somehow. I would have to take my footies off in front of a priest or the Bishop for goodness sake. Had I shaved my legs? Oh no! What about the polish on my toenails? I had not even thought about that!
My heart was pounding out of my chest as I watched others. I found myself out of my seat with tears running down my cheeks. I sat in one of the big chairs. An old man I loved and respected was on his knees gently removing my shoes and footies. I looked down and Tommy was smiling up at me. I felt warm water as he poured it over my bare feet. He gently took each of my feet in his aged hands and wiped them with the soft towel, still on his knees. All I could see was the top of his thinning white hair.
All I remember next was Mr.Tommy in the chair and I,on my knees, looking up into his face. Tears were streaming out of his peacefully smiling eyes. I knew exactly what he was feeling.
I remembered driving home and many times later, that line in scripture where Jesus said to his disciples before washing their feet, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand later.” John 13: 7. That night my realization was a love so complete, intimate and humbling that I supposed the word for it was Agape. It was the next closest thing to holiness I had experienced.
My realization this Mandy Thursday
After Jesus had washed their feet he told them, “I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.” John 13: 16.