Experience silence in the midst of your busy day. Take some time to relax into a time to be with God.
John 13:1-17 (NRSV)
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
He was old and had an intellectual disability. He was sitting in a lawn chair in the cold pre-dawn hours across the street from the 800 square foot house that had been his home for the last ten years. That morning, for some inexplicable reason, he decided to fuel up his lawn mower in the same room as the hot water heater. My crew had put out the fire, but the house was damaged beyond livability. He now sat in a neighbor’s chair, with his bib overalls on backwards, no shoes, sheltered from the cold dampness by only a blanket from the ambulance. We knew him by sight, had seen him walking the neighborhood, sometimes he would stop at our fire station to rest in the shade on a hot day. His neighbors call him “Firetruck,” but we don’t know why.
The tiny house had been gutted by the gasoline fed fire; few of his meager possessions were undamaged. We found his jacket, and a firefighter took it to the station to clean and dry it. Firetruck’s speech is a babbling mass of sounds, difficult to understand on his best days, and this was not one, but we finally figured out that he was asking us for shoes. We had not been able to find any in the house, so we started checking ourselves for shoe sizes, but none of us matched him. We were taking up a collection to go buy him some when Phillip, the Station 4 captain, went back in the house and looked under the bed, where he found a pair of nearly new jogging shoes. Firetruck grinned and nodded, but was too cold and arthritic to get them all the way on. All he could manage was to stick the front half of his foot into the shoes.
Phillip, a man with authority, respected and sometimes feared by those under his command, went to his knee, and took the old man’s dirty foot in his hand, worked it into the shoe, and tied the laces, repeating this process for the other foot. I could not help but think of Jesus’ lesson to his disciples. Feet can be dirty and disgusting. Touching another person’s foot is an act of intimacy commonly avoided. Giving a poor person a blanket, or donating time or money to the food bank is one thing, but for someone with authority to touch the feet of a smelly old man, when he could have easily have ordered someone else to do it, is an astounding act of humility. But that is what we must be willing to do, lest we risk Jesus having no share with us. I am embarrassed to admit that I stood there watching, while Phillip put both shoes on Firetruck. I should have helped with one.
Being a real follower of Christ is an act of intimacy commonly avoided.
God, when we pray “Thy will be done,” keep us mindful that your will might include having to do some disgusting, humiliating things. Courage, wisdom, a strong stomach, or whatever quality it takes to wash someone else’s feet, we ask for that quality. And we ask it in the name of the one who first washed our feet. Amen.
Go with God.