How many of you have desired a good foot rub? Perhaps it was a long day, and you had been on your feet many hours and your feet just get sore and tired sometimes. Does that sound familiar to you?
Many years ago, I badly hurt my legs in an auto accident. I was 19 at the time – broke the left leg and crushed the right ankle. The bones did heal, but as I get older, I notice my foot sometimes begins to ache when I’ve been on my feet a long time. If my foot could speak, it would probably not say nice things about what I have put it through. My wife Naomi gives wonderful foot rubs while she’s telling me what she’s thinking or what’s gone on in her day. I know I should pay attention to her, but her magical foot rub puts me right to sleep.
Feet are symbols of our journey. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, his message was this: “I am humbly serving you today so that you can lead others through my example; “to serve and not to be served.” I am washing your feet, because the journey ahead of you will be difficult. Your feet will take you to places you have not been. I encourage you to prepare your feet for this journey, so that you can continue it in the comfort of knowing that I have come to serve you, and in the same way I am sending you out to serve others.”
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego operates a wonderful modern day equivilent of our Lord’s foot washing story, and it’s called “Showers of Blessing.” It’s a custom built trailer with two showers [see picture below] pulled by a truck and currently is parked at All Souls Church in Point Loma when not in use. The showers are taken to participating churches throughout the diocese and provide the homeless a safe place to take care of personal hygiene needs with privacy and dignity. The ministry also provides clients clean clothing, including underwear and socks. For people living on the streets without access to laundry facilities, a clean pair of underwear and socks are wonderful gifts.
On Maundy Thursday, “mandate or commandment Thursday taken from the first few Latin words sung at the ancient ceremony of the washing of the feet,” we wash each others feet ritually. It’s not time to take a literal bath, but it is a time to say: “Hey, I am with you on this journey, and you’re not alone.” The humble and intimite act of washing another’s feet on bent knees and allowing others to do the same, allows the message to sink in – I back you on this journey. I want to walk with you on this journey – this journey toward the New Jerusalem, to the City of God. Even though we walk alone, we walk in the company of others, sharing along the way: doubts and disappointments; joys and fulfilments; wonder and awe of all God’s blessings. We are there for each other and have one another’s back.
On this Maudy Thursday, I, like many other leaders throughout the church, will model our Lord’s example through the washing of feet and remind you that I am here to serve you. That’s my job. We are called to serve one another and this powerful symbolic act renews our commitment to serve one another in our walk with Christ.
The Welcome Church in Philadelphia had a unique Maundy Thursday tradition. Each year, a professor from the Jewish Podiatry school brought students and participated in the service. They not only washed people’s feet, but they practiced physical examinations. Some students even came back later to re-examine and treat individuals’ feet that were in need. How unusual it must have seemed for a Jewish Doctor and students washing feet at a Christian worship service, but this didn’t matter to them. I’m not sure if they took communion – probably not, but what they did do was wonderful and helped so many. This service inspired a new ministry in Philly called ‘Socks from Heaven,” and provided new socks to cover clean feet.
God wants us to have feet that will enable us to travel on a journey to extend the love of Christ to others and to aid others in their journey. If that aid includes foot washing and socks, all the better. If that assistance means a meal, a warm coat or change of clean clothes, a place to get out of the rain, or a worship experience to hear and feel God’s love for them, then all the better.
“The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve
and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen