Powers: Foot Washing for the 21st Century

Julia Powers
Julia Powers (email)

It was Holy Week 2014 and I was hungry.

I had decided to fast on Good Friday until I received the Eucharist (at a midday service, because I’m no good at fasting for long). But, before I could get to the bread and wine, I had agreed to spend the morning delivering Meals On Wheels to homebound elderly individuals in an impoverished Dallas neighborhood.

One by one, I knocked on dilapidated doors and held out a boxed meal. By the third stop, my car smelled like lunch – a meal I wasn’t having that day. By the eighth stop, my stomach grumbled so loudly that the gray-haired man at the door laughed in my face. I was ready to be done.

Final stop. Finally.

“Door’s open,” Ms. Louise called from inside. “Come on back to the kitchen.”

She said she was hungry, so I handed her the lunch.

“No, no,” she said, waving it away, “set that on the counter. I’m hungry for some sugar!”

Ms. Louise held out her arms for a hug and kissed my cheek several times.

“I can’t get my slippers on,” Ms. Louise said, suddenly sad. “Could you help me, sugar?”

So, kneeling on the hard kitchen floor, I picked up one frail, little foot and then the other and eased it into a pair of snug pink slippers. My mind transported back to the Maundy Thursday service just the night before when Bishop Burton had washed the feet of 12 parishioners. He had reminded us visibly that Jesus, on the night before he was betrayed, humbly knelt down and washed the dirty feet of the disciples.

Upon doing this, Jesus said: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

By the time I got to church on that Good Friday, I was hungry and filled – physically hungry, yes, and somehow spiritually filled with the flavor of a Servant King who knelt down to be with us all, serve us, wash our feet, and teach us to go and do likewise.

Rarely do we literally kneel down and wash (or even put snug pink slippers on) someone’s feet. But one of the challenges of Christ’s life and death, which we consider during Holy Week, is Christ’s call to kneel down and follow the example of Christ, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

It looks like kneeling down to play with a child. To pick up a fallen friend. To scrub desks or plant shrubs at North Dallas High School (like many of us did last Saturday during Day of Service). To pray God’s peace be known in a hurting world.

So what about Holy Week 2015? Are you hungry? And how could you be filled by following Christ this week?

Categories: Between Sundays