In January I preached on the theme of ‘Jesus, the servant king’ and one of the passages was Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. After the service I had several conversations with people about times when I’ve washed different people’s feet during our Maundy Thursday services.
Many people describe coming together, to remember the events of that night Jesus spent with his disciples in Jerusalem, as one of the most moving times in the Christian calendar. And, of course, the washing of feet is one of the most symbolic parts of the service.
Although normally in our service only one set of feet are washed, I like to make as much of an event of it as I can, taking my time, and lifting the water high above the bowl so everyone can hear its splash. It’s such a strange thing to witness in 21st century Woking and yet it is one of the most beautiful and poignant images of our faith and the saviour we serve. Of course, physical kneeling is often neither comfortable nor practical, but the imagery of getting our hands dirty, of tender caring, of making ourselves lower than others, are all hallmarks of the way of Jesus. Kneeling at the feet of others is where we become most like Jesus.
I’m reminded of a scene I witnessed during our Holiday Fun Club last summer. The children were invited to make footprint pictures in the garden by dipping their feet in paint and walking along long sheets of paper. It was a lot of fun and definitely a great activity to do outdoors. As you can imagine, at the end of the activity each child was left with paint-covered feet and I watched as they took turns to sit on a chair as one of their leaders or peers, knelt and washed their feet in bowl of warm, soapy water. I saw several of the children visibly sit back and relax during this time and engage in really meaningful conversation with the person washing their feet. It was a calm and beautiful scene of serving and of service being received.
During January, and now on into February, we are exploring the Holy Habit of Serving. We are all called to serve in response to the call and example of Jesus. This will look different at various stages of our lives. We will have very active times when we can give a great deal, we will have harder times when we can do less. There may be periods where we feel we can serve very little, or perhaps not in the ways we used to. God uses all of these times to both shape us further into the likeness of Jesus and to bring hope and joy to others.
Sometimes our calling is to allow others to serve us and for them to bring the servant heart of Jesus to us through their acts of kindness. Sometimes we have to allow our feet to be washed by others. What a privilege to enable them to do that! Far from being a sign of weakness it is yet another sign of the kingdom of God where the weak are strong and the last are first.