The Holy Thursday service at Alexandria UMC has traditionally followed the “Maundy Thursday” rubric; focusing on some aspect of the gathered disciples and Jesus sharing their final meal together. This year that focus revolved around the question “what would you do if someone that you had a bad, perhaps very bad, past with sat down at this table with you? What would your response be?” We had an interesting discussion at our table about forgiveness. Being the youngest at the table by probably 20 years, I heard about how forgiving people or not even getting into situations that would require forgiving someone, gets easier with age. (I think they call that wisdom.) As interesting as that conversation was, there was something else that really stuck with me, and has continued to do so. It really kind of bothers me too.
We read the account of the Last Supper and in it of course, Jesus wraps a towel around his waist and commences to wash the feet of the disciples. They, particularly Peter, are troubled by this. It seems we generally are too. After the Gospel reading, we share communion. Each table has some bread that we break and share, and a carafe of juice that is passed amongst the table as well. One individual, let’s call him “Al”, who began the ritual by breaking bread proceeded to announce to everyone that he would break bread and pour the juice, but he certainly wasn’t going to wash any feet. It wasn’t enough that he said it once, but repeated it four or five times – just to make sure everyone knew where he stood on foot washing.
While it is certainly common in the Mennonite and Catholic traditions, foot washing is not really all the common in the mainline Protestant Churches. My guess is that “Al’s” response would be typical of most mainliners. People certainly aren’t comfortable with something new and radical as this and while I understand, I think that is very unfortunate.
So, let’s play a little “what if”.
What if, we all humbled ourselves to wash the feet of just one other person? What if, that person was the one that person from our past that we weren’t in the best of relations with? Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued a challenge that every elected official in Great Britain be required to wash the feet of the poor whose lives are affected by the budget axe that is falling there. What if that happened here? What would happen if every clergy person, from the biggest mega-church to the smallest congregation, bent down and washed the feet of members of the congregation they were serving? (Yes, even the ones that email or call them about how horrible the sermon or worship was every week!)
In a world awash in hubris and the constant need to be right, perhaps, bending down in humble fashion and washing the feet of another, just like the one whom we supposedly model our lives after, might just be the start of something. At the very least it would literally give us all a very different perspective on those people we worship with or whose lives are affected by the decisions we make.
What the world needs now? Maybe some clean feet.