I wasn’t really down with the feet-washing tonight.
That isn’t a great attitude. Especially not after Stephen, one of our guys in the program here, put on this big, cornucopia-esque, sit-back-and-relax kind of dinner for us. He wanted to do something special for the group before we head out to Israel, and honestly, it was a great meal. We don’t get a chance to sit down over a good spread and shoot the breeze all the time. Or at least, not as good as tonight’s meal. (There were candles. Yeah. Candles.)
After desert, we had the Lord’s Supper. That too was good, partially because our boy Chris got to administer it for his first time (he’s bound for the pastorate), and partially because it was a reminder how brilliant Jesus is.
(Think: If Christ can’t be with all believers in the flesh at all times, what better reminder/symbol of His sacrificial self than food and drink? It’s easily accessible, easily replicable, and engages all five senses. I can sort of get why my Catholic brothers see Transubstantiation in it.)
But as we moved into some worship with guitar, I started to get impatient. The Forge programs a lot of our time for us, and the more discretionary time I get, the happier I tend to be. So when I ended up staying longer to sing, my heart was a little disengaged. When the heck were we just going to be done for the night?
By the time I found a bowl of water with a sponge and towel by it in the back of the room, I was straight annoyed.
I mean, really?
One: that’s completely culturally irrelevant for Americans, seeing how we cover our feet too much to GET them dirty.
Two: it’s way cliché in Christian circles. Anytime we want a touching moment of service and significance, well, out comes the water-bowl and rag. (Especially if you’re about to pop the question.)
And Three: Jesus doesn’t even command us to do it or anything. Just the communion part.
(And speaking of which, hadn’t I just had communion a few minutes earlier? I was pretty sure my heart had been right at that point…)
One thing I’ve been learning is that heart-emotions don’t necessarily mean Truth. In fact, when heart and Truth conflict, the heart has to fall in line. And as I processed my grumpy attitude and the reality of service, the feet-washing began. When the bowly-water came around to clean me, I had no choice, despite my old prejudices with cliche Christianity… but to realize how beautiful that act is.
Practically speaking, well, okay. It doesn’t do much for our physical needs. But the spiritual posture it leads us to is so beneficial. It was good for me to scrub my friend John’s feet, even just to put myself down at a place Jesus put Himself at. 24 hours away from being crushed for human sin, and He found Himself staring eye-level at the lowliest part of the body. The stinkiest part. A visual reminder of how He was about to be tread upon by lowly created people FOR THEIR SAKE.
Symbols in the Christian community are powerful things. They’re in some ways, the best method for us to be reminded of the visceral reality of Jesus. We role-play for memory’s sake. Because He is absent in body, but present in Spirit. And because we need to remember that faith will someday be more than just symbol…
…it will be SIGHT.