Posts Tagged ‘serve’

Serve Humbly

Thursday of Holy Week Reflection

Photo taken by Gill Poole.

John 13:1-17, 31b-35. (Click here to read the full text.)

“You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right,
for that is what I am. 
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Throughout the first 80 years of Cullowhee Baptist Church (from 1821 until around 1900) the congregation met once a month, gathering on Saturday for business and Sunday for worship. They also had communion only once a year and it was always accompanied by footwashing.  We do not have details about how they did the footwashing but it’s not hard to imagine a small wooden church near the Tuckasegee, twenty or so bare-footed Baptists, and a good cold bucket of river water.

The story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in the Gospel of John gave Jesus a chance to take a more common practice and give it new meaning for his followers. Walking in sandals through dirt streets left everyone’s feet in need of washing.  When guests arrived at a house for a meal, foot washing was necessary and showed respect for the people who were “reclining” at the table. Jesus is the one who takes a basin of water and a towel and washes the feet of all his apostles. Why did the others not take the responsibility first? It is likely they thought someone else, a servant perhaps, would wash their feet. It is no wonder, then, that they were surprised that Jesus did so. 

Because of this story, footwashing has become synonymous with two things in Christian practice: servanthood and reluctance.  Jesus gave it the servant motif when he sits down and explains to these disciples that “you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” and then adds, “just as I have done, you also must do.”

But if we’re honest, almost all of us are reluctant to wash someone else’s feet. And, it is likely, that we have the same reluctance to truly serve other people as their servants. We want to “volunteer” and then be recognized or thanked. We want to “make a difference” and then feel good about our contribution. These acts of care and giving are certainly part of being a Christian, but Jesus’ call to servanthood includes washing feet precisely because it reminds us that doing for others, even if we are reluctant, is more like Jesus than doing for others so that we will be praised.  

These verses for today end with Jesus’ more comfortable command: “Love each other just as I have loved you” (v. 34). But like serving one another, to love someone like Jesus may require we swallow our reluctance and love another person with no attention given to our own reward.  

Consider this ….

  • What are my motivations to serve and love?

Prayer.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, so that I may serve another with only their care and your love in mind. Amen.

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