I commented on Facebook last night that I was currently a C&E churchgoer (Christmas and Easter), just a joke, and just because of the contrast from a few years ago. These things happen, and happened to me: Things change, my wife’s occupation tends to promote movement, I’ve had interesting schedules, etc. I don’t think about it a lot and assume that my future is unknown, but I do miss people.
It was a treat, then, to go to a Maundy Thursday service last night. It’s always been my favorite of the Holy Week nights, and I was a free agent, no responsibilities. I could just sit and soak it up.
(For the unaware: Maundy Thursday recalls what some refer to as The Last Supper, the upper room meal between Jesus and his disciples on the night he was betrayed in the garden. Maybe it’s coming back to you now.)
This particular service had this particular ministry anxious, because there would be foot washing. This refers to Jesus taking off his outer garments, grabbing a cloth and washing the feet of the others, an object lesson in service.
There was also a lot of cryptic stuff coming out of Jesus’ mouth, according to the Gospels, which happened sometimes. He was looking ahead to a big weekend after all, most of it not pleasant.
The staff was nervous because foot washing was a new thing for this church, and people had strong views, apparently. For some in this Presbyterian community, it probably felt alien, like that speaking in tongues and rolling around on the floor stuff those crazy people down south do. These are the frozen chosen, after all.
And then some, I guess, would see it as empty ritual, high churchish and meaningless, led by priest wannabees with a lot of Latin. People worry about a lot of things.
Actually, as I came to understand, reluctance may have been more about intimacy. Washing somebody’s feet is up close and personal, although not like it used to be. In Jesus’ time, people walked through poop a lot; the streets were probably full of it. Keeping your nose clean was easier than the soles of your feet, and thus we have a profound and moving act of supplication, if you look at it that way.
Anyway, it was fine. People who were bothered didn’t show up, I guess, and those of us there had a great time. My feet were washed by a little red-haired girl, which moved me tremendously as you might imagine.
It was a ritual. I doubt anyone had poop on their feet. I tend to roll my eyes at comments about ritual, since we still exhange rings at weddings and put candles on birthday cakes. This is what we do, incorporate symbols and acts that cause us to remember, and we do it every day, and to argue against it as being an impediment to spiritual awareness never has made sense. This is how the door opens; we are reminded, we remember, we are aware of and act on the memory, and the walls come tumbling down.
On a good day, of course.
I am using symbols right now. And now. Now too. And ritual (Grammar! Exclamation points!). No sweat.
I was going to bounce off Maundy Thursday because I had a GREAT idea about service and community and Medicare, but maybe I’ll leave that for another time. My feet are clean today, they needed to be. Enough said.