Dirty Feet

April 9, 2012

Last week we had a ‘Maundy Thursday’ service at church. The term ‘Maundy‘ comes from the Latin ‘mandatum,’ from which we get ‘mandate.’  It’s the first word in the Latin translation of John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  

Each year during Holy Week we celebrate this Thursday before Easter. We remember Jesus washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper.  As part of the Maundy Thursday service, foot washing stations are set up around the room with basins, pitchers, and towels. 

It’s not a real ‘seeker-friendly’ service. The lights are typically dimmed. The songs are somewhat mellow. The mood mirrors what we expect the upper room might have felt like the night before Jesus was to be crucified. It’s a service that doesn’t quite offer the same vibe as a ‘Young Life Rave Club.’

Despite that, I arrived to find another leader in our area, Chris, had shown up with two of his high school friends.  Immediately I started feeling guilty for not being a better leader and inviting my high school friends. Then, during the service, I started worrying about what these two sixteen year-olds were thinking.  “They can’t be enjoying this, can they? I hope their not too weirded out.”

We finally reached the point in the service where the optional foot washing could begin and I tiptoed out to get my daughter from the nursery. When I reentered the sanctuary, I almost lost my breath.  

Across the room I watched this Young Life leader place his hand on the shoulders of his high school friends and ask them if he could wash their feet.  Their eyes communicated uncertainty, but one by one they each came with him to the basin. 

I watched Chris remove one of his friend’s ‘five-fingered Vibram toe-shoes.’ I’d smelled those things earlier when I bowed my head to pray and almost gagged. Now his Young Life leader was washing those dirty feet. 

I wonder what what the shaggy haired teenager was thinking. It was his first time at church in quite awhile. 

“This is really awkward.”

“I’m glad a bunch of people from school aren’t here.” 

“Is this some kind of cult?”

“Is there a new episode of Tosh on tonight?”

“Why is another dude rubbing my feet?”

“Wonder where we’ll go for dinner after this?”

Or maybe…

“I don’t really understand why Chris is doing this. But something about this makes me want to know the Jesus he follows.”

In John 13:7, Jesus told Simon Peter, You do not realize now what I am doing, but later on you will understand.”


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 

We pray our high school friends may one day understand. 

We pray that they could grasp how wide, long, high, and deep is the love of Christ. We pray they would believe that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”


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