I vividly remember a steaming hot July day when one of my coworkers washed my feet on the side of a cliff. It was the end of our summer serving on Mountain T.O.P. staff together. We had spent three months creating worship services, leading messy games, and helping work teams paint houses and build porches. Needless to say, our camp feet were really dirty, and that day was no exception.
His name was Ryan. He carried water in his backpack as we had to hike to our cliff-side celebration spot. It was our custom to share gifts with one another. Washing our feet was Ryan’s gift. I can still see him touching my feet sincerely, wiping them off carefully, all without saying a word.
He was the kind of guy who never tired of serving others, always the first one to help and the last one to go to sleep. And it was Jesus who taught him how to serve others.
In John 13, the author depicts a scene that no other Gospel writer includes. He writes that Jesus got up from the last meal he would share with his friends, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then poured water into a basin to wash his disciples’ feet. When he was done Jesus said, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (13:13-14).
When I think of servant leadership, Jesus (and Ryan) come to mind, for the writer tells us, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (13:1). Here, the full extent of Jesus’ love for his friends is seen in the act of washing their feet. Jesus reveals that discipleship means being willing to serve others; to engage in the messy, dirty, on-the-ground realities of human life. As such, Christian discipleship must always be oriented towards the other and carried out with Christ-like humility. Christ says, if we love one another, we will serve one another, and by this all people will know we belong to God (13:34).
During our Maundy Thursday service, you will be given the opportunity to serve and be served by participating in a foot washing. How sacred to do the very same act Jesus did the night before he was crucified?
If this sounds intimidating or uncomfortable, I encourage you to lean into the discomfort. We will make sure you have proper instructions during the service. We hope to see you next Thursday at 5:00 PM for dinner and 6:15 PM for worship.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Sam McGlothlin