“Jesus said to them, ‘But whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.'” – Matthew 20:26
A parishioner confronted her pastor about the foot washing ritual in their Maundy Thursday service. She hated it, wanted it gone.
“It’s so out of date,” she informed him. “We don’t wear sandals every day. Our feet don’t get dirty like in Jesus’ time.” (Apparently she’d never distributed clean socks to homeless people. When she said, ‘our feet,’ she meant the clean, healthy feet of people like her.)
“Besides,” she said, “It’s unhygienic, awkward, servile, and embarrassing.”
“Right.” he said. “Your point?”
She stared at him. “Well, all I know is no one’s touching my feet.”
But she surprised him. And maybe herself. She showed up, got her feet washed, and washed other people’s feet, too. Later, she confessed she’d wept like a baby when an ancient-of-days member of the church creakily knelt to dry the feet of his ailing wife.
She also confessed that she’d gotten a pedicure earlier in the day. I guess foot-washing is less objectionable when your feet look good.
But I’m not knocking her. It wasn’t a small thing for her to allow even beautifully lacquered toes to be handled by Jesus. Even a faint light is light. Even a slight unveiling can illumine the world.
Yes, it was something, her little embrace of the distinguishing mark of a disciple, her beginner’s insight into the inescapable paradox of Christian faith—that down is glory, and lowliness, joy.
It was something, that little falling in love, that little baptism, that epiphany.
I would wish something like it for us all.
Servant Jesus, you are out of date, unhygienic, awkward, servile, and embarrassing. I want to love you. And to serve my neighbors on my knees.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.