Friday, April 6, 2012

Washed Washers

Last night I attended my first ever Maundy Thursday service. Attending a church that celebrates Lent, I've learned a lot in the last 40 days! I've learned that Lent isn't just a time to diet from junk food or give up a bad habit; it's not just a 40 day period between two well-attended services (Ash Wednesday and Easter); it's not just a time to sing more choral music. It's a time to meditate on and experience with Jesus His last days on earth. 

I've written a little bit about union with Christ here; how I've come to see it as the "main act" of what it means to be a Christian- not a person with fire insurance or a ticket to heaven, but someone who has been united to Jesus and therefore will start to look like Him. In the same way that an adopted child or a husband or wife begin to take on the characteristics of the one they belong to, so those who belong to Jesus begin to take on His characteristics. They begin to bear the family resemblance, their lives begin to tell the story of their elder brother, Jesus. 

Last night at Maundy Thursday, the whole congregation was invited to have their feet washed. The idea was: Jesus washed His disciples' feet before His betrayal, and He commanded them to do likewise. Now obviously washing feet had a specific meaning in first-century Jewish culture that it doesn't have now. When we Americans think "servanthood" we don't think "washing feet." The point is Jesus served in the humblest, dirtiest, way conceivable, and He even served those who would betray Him less than a day later. He knew how His disciples would fail Him by scattering, denying Him, and betraying Him when He went to the Cross. And He still chose to wash the slime off their feet.

On our way home, Michael said, "the Christian life is both washing and being washed." I realized that's what is so powerful about the symbolic foot-washing of the Church. Christians aren't called just to be nice, to do good things, to follow a good teacher and serve others. That's not the whole story. They're first called to admit their own need to be washed by Christ alone, and to receive His humbling servanthood. They're called to let Him see their filth and to let Him wash them. This is not natural or comfortable because sometimes we see God as too high and holy to imagine Him washing the dirt off our feet. Sort of the way we'd probably not let the President do our dishes if he came over for dinner. That's how the apostle Peter felt. He said, "You shall never wash my feet!" But Jesus knew what Peter didn't-- His response was, "unless I wash you, you have no share with me." 

We don't get "in" with Jesus just by following His teaching. We don't become one with Him just by imitating. We must first receive Him for who He claimed to be-- the One who sees our filth and who washes it. Only then do we "share with" Him and then, because we've experienced the humbling eye of the Lord on our place of greatest sin and have received mercy, we can extend the same gentle, humble, servanthood toward others. 

Even those who betray us. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are blessed by your blog. You are a wonderful writer. We love you! MomAnn and Grandy