Monday, June 18, 2012

The Unexpected Messiah

JOHN 13: 1-1 7; 31B - 35

The Fourth Gospel mentions no Holy Communion on the night before Jesus' death. Instead, John's Gospel records that Jesus rises in the middle of supper, trades his robe for a knotted towel, and washes his disciples' feet. This sacra­ment involves no bread, no wine, just feet-twenty-four of them at least, with ruined toenails, burst blisters, yellow corns where the hand-me-down sandals rub and thick cal­luses underneath. When Jesus finishes washing them, he leans close to dry them since his only towel is around his waist. Trust me, that towel is not something you want near your food when the foot washing is over.

On the next to last day of his life, Jesus gives his disciples this example to follow once he is gone, the lesson that he hopes will continue to teach them forever. This lesson is not in words either. It is a lesson in bodies, which the church has always cut a wide swath around. On the whole, we prefer sacraments with inanimate objects: a nice loaf of bread that does not move, a cup of wine or grape juice that will not talk back. These things are much easier to spiritualize than a bunch of smelly feet, each one attached to a singular human being with real warmth, real dirt, real faith, real doubts. Jesus understood how it worked. You cannot take a foot in your hands without getting really close to another person; once that happens God's word becomes flesh.

Whether or not we celebrate this sacrament on a regular basis, it is there to remind us that Jesus does not live inside a cross, an altar, a loaf, or a cup. Until we recognize him in one another, he is not here. Once we meet him in one another, there is no place he is not.

Risen Lord, be known to us in the washing of the feet. Amen.

 --Barbara Brown Taylor, Embark

No comments: