Excerpt from John 13:1-17
"Lord, are you going to wash my feet? . . . You will never wash my feet."
Martin B. Copenhaver
Two members of my church ran into each other in a store and the conversation went like this (a true story - all of my stories are true):
"Hey, didn't I wash your feet on Sunday night?"
"Yes, that was me. I thought I recognized you. But it was quite dark at the time, so I wasn't sure."
"Yeah, and I was a little nervous because I'd never done anything like that before. Let me introduce myself..."
It was only then they realized that the woman behind the counter had stopped doing anything and was simply staring at them. Realizing this talk about washing each other's feet might sound a little odd if you didn't know the context, they hurried to explain: "We're both members of Village Church. We did this at church."
That didn't seem to help much. The woman behind the counter had a look that said, "So that's what goes on in that church! I never would have guessed."
Then there were hasty further explanations about the origins of the practice in the Bible and how it was part of a worship service. But to someone just hearing about it, it was still a bit shocking.
And, in a sense, shock is an appropriate response in keeping with the story. Peter was shocked when Jesus began to wash his feet. It was only servants who washed feet. So no wonder Peter was shocked to see Jesus, God's chosen one, washing feet, of all things, behaving like a servant, of all people.
God, today - this very day - show me a way in which I can play the role of a servant, perhaps in a way that surprises even me.
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.