Why are we uncomfortable with people washing our feet?

Even now, Jerusalem is a dusty city.  Forensic scientists and the people from CSI and its like could have a field day with the dust that settles on the foot of any walker in Israel.  Pollen from the fig trees and flowering plants.  Salt residue from the Dead Sea.  Mold spores from the fertile Jordan River.  Bits of the ubiquitous sand from the Mediterranean Ocean.  How quickly that mixed bag of grime from the environment would coat even the most hygienically clean among the Israelites.  And how easy it would be for our generation of forensic scientists to figure out where the people of Jesus’ time had been by examining the grime from their feet.  “Spending time in the stables, I see.”  “How was that Dead Sea vacation?”  “Are the dates ripe in Capernaum yet?”  All the questions they would be able to ask by simply examining the dust on our feet…

And though our world is a bit ‘cleaner’, at least in terms of the lack of visible dust that might cling to us, isn’t there the same, exhume-able, research-able, able to be discovered ‘spiritual grime’ that needs some washing –that could use some divine cleansing.  Which is why, at the last supper, and by God’s grace – tonight – Jesus does something that is disconcerting for even the best of us.  He is going to insist on sitting at our feet.  He wants to be among us as one who washes us clean and sets us free.  Right there, where the ‘dirt of our lives’ clings to our souls like a dirty dish rag – Jesus enters our world with a basin of water and a towel around his waste.

But if you are like me, then we don’t want him wearing our grime, getting too acquainted with the dirt of where we have been. We don’t want him wearing our grime, getting too acquainted with the dirt of where we have been.

Yet what I know of our savior is that Jesus is determined to touch every gritty detail of human existence, down to the linens of a shroud.  And if there is a power to this ritual of washing and being washed, isn’t it just that.  That Jesus wants to set it all free.  And he wants to set us free from all that would restrain us; all that would keep us from being servants and disciples.

So it got me to thinking – what is the grime that I am wearing, the bits of collected muck that clings to me like the ubiquitous dirt of Palestine?  What have I allowed to cling to my heart and spirit that needs the loving hands of our Savior to gently wash it away?  Let me share 3 examples in the hopes it might open up something in your prayer this evening.

  • I find myself more selfish this year.  That dirt shows up as being very protective of my time, very loath to say yes to anything that is inconvenient or stretches me or is outside of my comfort zone.  That dirt clings to me a lot these days.
  • I find an attitude of pride is clinging to me.  It surfaces in many ways.  One is my sometimes stubborn refusal to ask for help because I am not sure if other people will do whatever the task is as well as I think it should be done.
  • And I find the grime of predictability clinging to me as well.  It is a good day if nothing messes with my comfortable world, if my principal does not bring any ‘problems’ to our weekly meeting; if the Newman center budget is on track and the like.  I don’t like my world to be ‘un-peaceful’ and disordered, and I don’t always handle it well when it is.

Perhaps those issues are ones that you struggle with.  Perhaps it is something different.  Will you believe that the Lord wants to wash all that from your feet/heart tonight?  And whether that is physically in a few moments as we ritualize that movement up here in the sanctuary, or in your prayer as you watch others have their feet washed, know that our Lord’s desire is to wash your feet.

Uncomfortable or not, the Lord is in the business of washing feet.  And hearts.  And souls.  Will you let him?  Tonight, will you be vulnerable before the one who wore all our grime upon the cross, and washes away all the dirt of where we have been – all our selfishness and pettiness and pride.  Will you let him set you free?