Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Servanthood and Sweaty Feet

I come in from the shops and pour myself a big red plastic mug (which should have been put away with the camping stuff) full of water. My mouth, throat and insides feel better now but my feet are complaining. The soft, powdery dust of Africa works itself through my sandals like a fine talc but the result is not similar to a freshly powdered baby after his bath. No, the combination of heat, sweat, suede sandals and talcum-esque dust leaves my feet hot and slippery inside my shoes. Nope, I can't go on till I've balanced on one leg at a time and washed my feet in the sink in my bathroom.

This has me thinking about Jesus washing his disciples' feet.

I'm not planning to study this passage or dissect it or be at all academic and clever about it. I'm just musing. I'm not Mr. Barclay or Mr. Wright. I am Lisa: child-rearer, tea-maker, she who dances to The Monkees.

Jesus removed his outer garment and washed his friends feet more, we believe, to engage in an act of servanthood toward them, than simply to clean the sweat and dust from their feet. Mind you, their feet may well have needed the bath and maybe he was tired of the smell, which possibly gave him the idea. Who knows? But he bent low, took on the job of a servant, and dealt with their yuck.

Today we sometimes engage in foot washing in our communities of believers. We do it as a symbolic thing, a sign of serving each other. And it's a cool thing. Very cool.

But I was just wondering about this symbol out of its context. Jesus did it IN the context that it was a normal, every day service that servants performed. If you arrived at your friends house, their servant came and washed your feet because it was dusty and hot and you walked through the heat and dust to get there. It was an act of hospitality to make you more comfortable, in the same way that we say, "Can I get you something to drink?"

Only offering a person a drink doesn't require me to do anything potentially gross as an act of service for my visitor, does it? And washing someone's feet, (for the most part) is not the same in the neatly paved West as it was all those years ago.

So as I stood there washing my feet under the cool water, I wondered what would be a closer sign of servanthood that we could offer each other.

It's not our culture to all have servants so we do the lowly jobs ourselves, or have city workers who do them. My culturally adapted versions of foot washing include these:

Flossing teeth
Cleaning toilets
Sorting the trash for recycling
Taking the trash out and washing the rubbish bins afterwards

I wonder about Jesus showing up and setting about to clean our toilets or take out our trash. I picture him washing down the sides of the bins afterwards and then grinning at me as he puts them back in their places (recycle, compost, throw) in the kitchen.

It feels base and almost wrong to picture him that way.

Must have felt the same to his disciples.


chris jones said...

You know what i also love and muse on in this passage is the verse that says "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist"

I always think it is so interesting that the reason jesus did this amazing act of service is because he knew who he was and who God was.

Miss you guys! How are things?

Anthony said...

Thought provoking. A great story. May God bless you work in Tanzania

Trevor Borden said...

this is an amazing post mom! A+

Trevor Borden said...

actually i just read it again cuz it makes me happy the way you write.

Melissa said...

Hi Lisa

I don't know you very well, outside of reading your blog and your comments to Nelly. I think I met you once actually, one summer when I was visiting the nelly in Portugal. There was a cookout at your house. Anyway, I just wanted to say that your writing makes me smile too, and I really enjoy it. This post is stuck in my mind for today. One more ingredient in the ever stirring pot of thoughts in my head. :) Thanks.


Brian said...

Lisa can I put the masai story from the wild hope blog on the international site?

Jenelle said...

I love it when you talk about Scripture. I'd pick you over 'ol NT any day. And you know that I really, really like NT.

I thought about your servanthood thoughts all day after reading them.

lisa said...

thanks for all the nice words. i especially like my grade, trevor :-)

you all made me feel very happy!

lisa said...

oh and yes, brian, you may...

john lewis said...

OK, so I just said we seldom comment, but this is a great post. You're so right about context and about the almost demeaning aspect of this service. But it's also very personal - the bins don't quite make it for me there - so what would it be today? What would it be for me in the orderly, structured West? Don't know the answer, but I'll keep thinking about it. Thanks for this. Love you.

lisa said...

John, you have brought out a very good point. It IS personal, the foot-washing thing. Though, I suppose, it was deemed less so in those days as it was, as I understand it, commonplace...

Marty said...

foot washing for me is very ticklish!

Do you mind if I put this blog on the Matrix site?

Miss you, love you,
Marty & Carey

lisa said...

Certainly, you may :-)

Carolyn said...

Lisa......do you remember when you washed my feet? I cried.