Thursday, April 09, 2009

washing each other's feet

I was raised in a Mennonite church in which we had communion only once a quarter, four times a year (from what I can remember). And every communion we also had foot washing. The ladies would go downstairs to do theirs, as they had to take off their stockings.

I still remember doing that, how it felt. Ceremonial, but thought to be in obedience to Jesus' command that his disciples should wash one another's feet, just as he had done to them.

This Maundy Thursday in which this command was given is a good reminder that we are to be servants of each other, in Jesus. We are to serve each other humbly in love.

This is something we are both to do, and what should be a way of life for us. This should become second nature. I doubt that Jesus was telling his disciples to have a special service maybe once a year, washing each other's feet just as he had done, to symbollize the importance of serving one another. Washing feet was something servants routinely did, but not "regular folk". So what Jesus did was powerful in that context and culture.

But we need to have that same spirit in helping each other in our day. In a way which demonstrates the love we have for each other, a love in which we lay down our lives if need be, and in spirit live that out daily. But something not forced, but lived out by the Spirit in our midst, something both given and received.

Do any of you have something you'd like to share on this?

10 comments:

The Wingnut said...

I remember taking part in several youth retreats in high school and college, where this was an important event.

The kids we were working with were high school age, and many of them, probably most of them, didn't have any Christian influence in their lives.

But on the second evening of the weekend, we were all assembled, and everyone was asked to choose someone and wash their hands. If you wanted to do feet, you could. But the symbolism was the same either way, and it was powerful.

I think that in our western Protestant traditions, we have moved away from this powerful example of service, to our detriment.


wingnut

nAncY said...

your post is a wonderful reminder.

Every Square Inch said...

Thanks for sharing the significance of the foot washing practice. Did you find the practice actually helpful in conveying the essence of servanthood as opposed to it being just another ritual?

I'm sure it can be a means of grace for many but I've never been in a church that's practiced it

Ted M. Gossard said...

The Wingnut,
Yes. I'm sure the practice, especially on a special occasion can be powerful in conveying this truth. Of course those kind of practices do little or no good at all, if they don't help us toward change in our everyday lives in following Christ.

Deb and I look forward to attending a one day Benedictine retreat in which silence will be the rule, I think, at least most of the time.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Nancy.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI,
I didn't find it helpful, but maybe largely so because I was not yet a Christian. And not that long after I became a Christian I left the Mennonite church. So the practice really didn't impact me much, or at all, as I remember now.

Kurt Willems said...

There is something humbling about washing someone's feet... but even more humbling are the times that my feet have been washed by someone else. Now, I think that you are right in that we need not make a ceremony out of this, but we should live this out in modern ways in these modern days. With that said, I think there is a way to really bless someone with the traditional act... although i am with you and don't think Jesus was instituting a sacramental command. Blessings and happy Easter!

nannykim said...

My son happened to go to a Seder this past week. It was done by a Christian church that is made up of people of Jewish descent . They told about another aspect of the feet washing. In Ex 30:19-21 it mentions that Aaron and his sons had to wash their hands and their feet from the bronze laver when they entered the tent of meeting so that they wouldn't die when they approached the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD....

I forget what my son actually said ..but they tied this aspect of the feet washing into the whole symbolism of what Jesus was doing that night.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Kurt,
Thanks! Yes, I'm with you on your thoughts. I don't know what a good present day equivalent is, but we should remember that as we do it unto the least of Jesus's brethren, we do it unto him.

Ted M. Gossard said...

nannykim,
Thanks. We attended a Seder Thursday night, quite good, though probably a bit less Jewish, or less purely Jewish.

Of course people have compared the feet washing to the continual cleansing from sin we receive here and now as we walk in the light as he is in the light. And Jesus does mention that it is necessary- if Peter refuses this from Jesus, Peter has no part in Jesus. And Jesus said they had already had a bath, being clean through the word he had spoken so that all that was needed was a washing of their feet from the dirt of this world.

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that.