Beautiful Feet: A Maundy Thursday Update

By: Rev. Amy Gopp
Based on John 13

“It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  (John 13:1)

Feet.  Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist, poured water into a bowl and started to wash his friends’ and followers’ feet.  Their feet, of all things!  Couldn’t he have been content with the hands?  Of all parts of the glorious human body that God has created, the feet are often among the least attractive.  In fact, they often smell.  They are more likely to have blisters and warts and corns and layers of dead skin.  They collect toe jam.  They’re susceptible to in-grown toenails and infections and athlete’s foot.  They can be just downright embarrassing. 

Felix's Feet, El Gran Chaco, Argentina. Photo Credit: Amy Gopp

Through the ministry of Week of Compassion, I’ve seen feet with blisters so bad those forced to flee could no longer walk.  I’ve seen the feet of children in our streets and slums who live in such poverty that a pair of shoes remains a distant dream.  I’ve seen feet calloused from walking so many kilometers each day to fetch water that they’re barely able to sustain the women who need them to get through yet another hungry, thirsty day.  I’ve seen victims of war without feet because they were blown off by stepping on a landmine that we laid in our once arable fields.  I’ve seen feet that are so pampered and painted that you’d get the impression they’ve never seen a day of working or walking in their lives.  I’ve seen my share of feet.  I know you have, too.  And no matter how they look, we rely on them.  We take their functionality for granted.  They are, quite literally, the parts which allow us to move through this world. 

Have you looked at your own in a while?  I mean, really inspected your feet?  Would you reveal them to just anyone?  The act of washing another’s feet is extremely personal.  It’s about trust.  Vulnerability.  Allowing someone else to touch the ugliest, dirtiest, and most sensitive parts of our body is not easy.  It’s an overwhelming act of surrender.  For this reason, I believe, some of the most sensual and intimate acts in the Bible involve the feet.  What more loving gesture could there be than to weep at the feet of one we love so much, wipe them dry with our hair, kiss them, and then pour perfume on them to anoint them?  Think of it; what an act!  To affirm that which is considered untouchable, disgusting, filthy, inappropriate as beautiful and worthy of tender loving care. 

Jesus has modeled for us how to wash each other’s feet.  Peter reminds us how to receive the tender loving care of having our own feet washed.  Both are in vulnerable positions.  Loving is about opening ourselves to that vulnerability, being real with one another, and serving one another.  Through Week of Compassion, we are both giver and receiver. Both are vulnerable positions.  We wash and we are washed.  We not only give gifts, contribute offerings and our time and talent, we receive the gifts of hearts and minds transformed knowing that we are partners, co-creators, and conspirators in this amazing project of life, giving and receiving, interdependent parts of the same body. Washing one another’s feet, whether the person sitting next to you in the pews or the sister or brother half way around the world whose feet we wash symbolically through our Week of Compassion resources, has to be one of the most sincere, beautiful, and self-less acts of love.  We love by serving.  We serve because we love.  Let us love the ugly, stinky, dirty, embarrassing parts of one another, for this is what it means to surrender to the compassionate and transcendent love of Christ and ultimately, discover beauty.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  (John 13:34) 

Thank you for the ways your love is expressed through your gifts of compassion and service.  May your Holy Week be Holy, indeed.  Lenten blessings from Week of Compassion. 

This Week’s Assistance:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance: 

United States, Early 2013 Storms, Floods and Tornadoes
Taiwan, Earthquake Relief Work
Kentucky, Church Fire