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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Maundy Thursday - 3/20

Jesus Washes Our Feet for Service to Others

Maundy Thursday
March 20, 2008
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Bethany Lutheran Church

They are not pretty, these feet of mine. Feet that have been abused by the weight they have carried – miles that I have walked throughout my lifetime – marathon races I have run, 26.2 miles without stopping. These feet of mine are calloused. They are worn, cut and bruised. The toenails are disfigured and my feet do not smell too good either.

I suspect that the same was probably true of the disciples’ feet, having walked miles on rugged dirt roads full of pebbles and stones, wearing sandals without the comforts of pads or extra arch support – dusty feet – smelly feet. Their feet needed to be washed. It was even customary for feet to be washed whenever entering a home. But this work was usually reserved for women, children, and non-Jews. Jewish men were not supposed to wash feet, especially those who were rabbis.

My friend and I decided to go mountain climbing one summer with a professional company that could ensure our safety. There would be about two dozen amateurs on this climb ranging in age from eighteen up through mid-fifties. We were ready to hit the face of the mountain and begin our climb, but our two instructors David and Tim told us that we had to practice a few things and go over the necessary safety precautions. Oddly enough, they arranged us in a tight circle. We were facing the person to our right when we were instructed to walk. Our group in its tightly formed circle turned as if it were a mechanical wheel.

Then David said, continue walking and grab hold of the rear end of the person in front of you. Well, you can imagine the shock and horror of the group. This is a part of the body we keep hidden, a part of the body that sometimes brings us shame. It is not a part to be touched by someone else. But then David explained everything. When you are climbing a mountain with a group of people, you share a common safety rope. If the person that was climbing above you were to suddenly lose their grip and fall, their weight and pull on the rope as they began to fall would cause you to lose your grip and fall. Unless you wanted to dangle from the rope and attempt to reestablish your footing, you had better be okay with touching another person’s rear end. Every climber was interconnected with the next – we would be one community as long as we were all on this one rope and the actions of each individual would affect the entire group.

We are a community you and I, but it is not rope that holds us together, instead it is water – water that was poured over each of our heads, water through which we obtained eternal life. It is the water that motivates us to serve one another. The water source is full and rich with blessing, but how far do we carry it forth from here? Some of us wear crosses. Most of our family and friends know that we go to church regularly and they may even call us by the title of a Christian. Indeed, we are the body of Christ but we must Be the body of Christ.

There are going to be times when one of us begins to fall. There are going to be times when one of us begins lacking in faith. These are precisely the times when the community that is shaped and connected by water must not be afraid to reach out and take hold of the one who is falling, even if it is uncomfortable, even if not everything is neat and clean.

And we are fairly good at taking care of our own. We are very good at looking out for our fellow members of Bethany Lutheran Church. I have seen you visit the hospitalized, the sick and the shut-ins. I know that you give your money regularly to help the poor. I know that you tend to the children, teaching them the same bible stories that you once learned as a child. Yes, you are very good at serving your fellow members of Bethany, but we are part of something bigger than that.

The church is not a clubhouse that you visit to hang out, for the church is much larger than these eight walls. The mission of the church must be never-ending for its very mission includes the entire world. There are many people in the world who do not know what Christianity is. Even worse, there are many people in this country who have rarely stepped foot into a church and yet who think they know what Christianity is. We can tell others that we are Christians, yes. But it is not enough unless we show them. Show others what your faith means through your service in the world. For Jesus has set each of us as an example, and instructs us on this every night to wash one another’s feet.

Whenever we are not gathered to worship and pray in church, let us live as a servant to everyone we encounter for the waters encompass all of God’s creation. Let us each live as the servant that God has created us to be. We cannot shy away from those who are imperfect or weak or lack in faith for they are the ones that need us most. The ones who are marginalized and alone are among those whom Jesus has commanded us to love and serve as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our feet are not pretty. Our rear ends are not pretty. But Jesus does for us what none of us are prepared to do for each other. He kneels to wash the feet of his disciples. He breaks bread with us. And then he takes upon himself the sin of the whole world – every pain and hurt, every feeling of shame, every thing that we have ever done to separate ourselves from one another and from the very community that loves and supports us. Jesus washes us and takes on all that which is not pretty, all that we are not proud of and carries it with him to the cross.

Tonight, we celebrate and participate once more in that great meal that took place in the upper room, and our first communicants will participate in the actual eating and drinking. They have longed to be fed and tonight will finally taste the bread and cup that Jesus offers. Tonight we will be surrounded by Jesus and his disciples and the whole company of saints, all those whom we have loved and who have died in the faith.

And tonight, we remind ourselves once again that we have been washed in the waters of baptism and called to lives of services. Tonight, we have an opportunity to have our feet washed, as a reminder of our calling to be the body of Christ. I caution you that this body is not a body which is always pretty. It is a body that will be beaten and scourged. It is a body in whose death on the cross, our very selves will also die. It is a death for which you are ready. For Jesus has washed us all. Jesus has bathed us and prepared us for his service. And we have been given all that we will need. Let Christ wash you once more so that you may be renewed and prepared to serve all whom you meet. Wash your feet before this sacred journey we will take over the next three days. Get your feet wet and allow yourself to be served on this night so that you may know how to serve others. By this everyone will know that you are Jesus’ disciples.

Vicar Luke Smetters

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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