Friday, March 29, 2013

The Basin and the Towel

In the era that Jesus lived in, the most common mode of transport was walking. Custom and tradition held that when a guest came to your home, you first offered them water to wash their dusty, filthy hot sore feet from their journey. It was a low status dirty job that the lowest meanest servants did, as a service that the master of the house provided. "

So in the story of the Last Supper and the Upper Room, the disciples - clueless as ever - were spending their evening bickering about status; who among them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom, not even then realizing that the "kingdom" Jesus spoke of was of the heart, not an earthly government. Can't you see it? 

The disciples arguments getting louder as the evening progressed. Jesus, rising with a long suffering sigh, giving up finally on words all together. Going and getting water in a basin, and towels, and stripping off his outer garments and walking to the first of his followers nearest to him, going to his knees, and - dressed as a lowly, demeaned servant - tenderly beginning to wash the person's feet. Silence must have fallen across the room like an ax, cutting off all sound.
Jesus...their great Rabbi, their Teacher, the one they secretly - or not so secretly - expected to become King and over throw the Romans, on his knees, on the hard, dusty floor, washing their feet like one of the invisible, ignored servants. 

And when it was all done, he rose and said, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “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. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
We "wash each other's feet" when we care for each other, when we are community for each other, when we reach out to those who are tired, in need, exhausted, dirty, lonely. And we comfort, we aid, we help, we bind up the physical, mental and emotional wounds. We share in their trials and pain. And we allow others to care for us, as we care for them. This is the heart of what Jesus taught. It is something that it seems so often that the big, status "who is greater among us" churches have forgotten, or have out and out trampled upon in their pride and disdain. 

I have friends who are devout Christians who live this every day with every breath they take. I also have friends who are not Christians...who also live this every day, with every breath they take, sometimes more effectively than many who claim to be Christians do. 

This isn't about religion, church, or creed or belief. 
This is about the depth of love and community. 
...take up the basin and the towel.

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