He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
- John 13:6-8 NIV
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so love one another.”
- John 13:34 NIV
It is Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from an Old English word meaning mandate referring to the mandate or commandment Jesus gives his disciples later in John 13, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so love one another.”
To be honest, I’ve spent the better part of last night trying to find a good word for you. I’ve looked for the historical context of foot washing and though there are a few nuggets, the truth is that feet are dirty and having your feet washed is intimate and humbling regardless. I’ve tried to find a good metaphor for what this all could mean, but the truth is, I’m more comfortable washing your feet than having my feet washed. I’d rather have words to say than be seen naked and without something to say. Similar to Peter, I’d rather serve you and be accepted than be seen by you and possibly rejected.
I think this is the most honest and most profound thing I can offer here - my feet, my exhaustion, my shame for not planning better or writing better. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy for me to write, but it’s not always. It’s painful and often words barely arrive and tonight they seem to be social distancing. And yet as I write I feel my heart beating again, because I’m finally being truthful with myself and with you.
“No. You shall never wash my feet.”
We long to be seen as we are, but when we look at the digital faces these days, most everyone seems to be fine, so fine is how we decide to seem as well. Jesus tells Peter, unless I wash your feet you have no part in me, and we too have no part with one another when we cover our need, our grief, or the grief of others. Foot washing isn’t giving us a model of services, but a model of love, both an act of divine grace, and of deep human connection - oh how we long for this more than ever.
It’s hard to imagine the scene of the last supper or the washing of feet in the midst of quarantine - gatherings and touch are hard to come by, but I believe the gift we can give one another is not to quiet, taper or numb the humanity around us, but to receive and love your own humanity, because if you can see your humanity, then others will know their humanity is safe to be seen too. If you’re like me, you may not be able to see your own humanity until you show it to a friend. This is what it means to love one another.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit