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8 “No,” said Peter,
“you shall never wash my feet.”
“Unless I wash you,
you have no part with me.”
It is early on Sunday morning and I am up before my family and sitting on the carped floor in my bathroom. Every couch and room in my small house is filled with sleeping people. One couch is often taken up by a friend who has become like family. This weekend, my son invited his buddy to spend the weekend, that bumps my oldest out to the other couch. I am happy for the small house full of people. Yesterday I just got up and headed over to the church and spent my quiet time putting together my new studio. Today I could do that again but it will take both cars to get everyone here to church. So my quiet place is not the most awe inspiring. It is a place of physical cleansing, it is a private place where we wash and take care of bodily functions. Its part of life.
Cleansing is part of your spiritual life as well. Jesus washed his disciples feet - and a few of them got all edgy and did not want him to see or touch their stinky dirty feet. They had been with Jesus for a while and had picked up some dirt. They believed in him, trusted him, followed him. Their hearts had already changed and been washed in his presence and were still being transformed to be able to go on after his death and resurrection. They have come near the end of the physical journey together and Jesus takes up the towel. His followers had come to think of Him as the Lord, the coming King and they are appalled that he would take on the guise of a servant and take care of cleaning the road dirt of life off their feet.
There are those very private spiritual bathroom type cleansing that we need to allow Jesus to take up the towel and minister cleaning and refreshing. It is humbling for us to allow those we highly respect to see the dirt of our life. Most of the time the washing of the word on a regular daily basis is enough. Sometimes we get in a funk of sorts and just need to let someone else see that we are struggling. Its in those times that it is good to have trusted friends. People who will not judge or condem you, but will pray and will encourage you and point you to Jesus. Sometimes just confessing and talking about it is enough to break the power of the hold of the thing over your life. Sometimes it is enough to share your big deal and realize that much of it is in your head and the problem is really not insurmountable.
I had one of those big deals in my head earlier this week. My friend Mechieal happened to stumble in via facebook chat to my personal pitty party. I had the chance in that moment when she asked how I was to give the standerd "fine" as a response. We give that answer too often when we are not "fine". I realized that in that moment I needed some prayer support and Mechieal is a trusted and mature christian woman and in that moment I let her know my struggle. In that moment God had sent me the help that I had been praying for. In that moment I needed to be open and honest and humble enough to admit I needed some support. She did not even need to know all the details, just what the struggle was. She encouraged me and prayed for me and I know over the past days that she has prayed for me as the Holy Spirit has brought me to her thoughts. I am grateful, I have been able to turn things around in my head. I am doing so much better.
Sometimes its our turn to take up the towel for someone else. I don't go around dirt inspecting in the lives of other people, I got enough of my own. Sometimes I get to pray for someone as a leader in my church. Sometimes it is over chat in facebook or over the phone. Sometimes it is part of an on going conversation sometimes it is and in the moment Holy Spirit led kind of thing. In those moments we have the opportunity to listen, to pray, to briefly encourage. I say briefly because I have found the ability to listen and pray to be of far greater value. People don't need my opinion or how I would solve the problem if it was mine. In that moment you need someone who can be trusted not to gossip, to hear whats going on, to truly pray and keep praying. If there is advice to give it is because that person has managed to overcome something similar. Sometimes they might be able to hear what God is saying and be able to give a word of wisdom, or knowledge or remind you of some truth or passage from the word to stand upon. The most important thing is to know that they will in that moment be led by the Holy Spirit.
There are weeks when I put aside my struggles and am called to minister to people in our prayer loft. It is amazing how many times the people that God sends to me are struggling with something very similar and I pray and allow the Holy Spirit to flow and share those verses that are very fresh upon my own heart. In that moment my concern and focus is on that other person and in that moment God ministers to us both. Its amazing. Perhaps in your own struggle it is time for you put it aside and simply be available to pray and encourage others. Perhaps you will find that in ministering to someone else in their need that God ministers to you as well.
I don't think Jesus is telling us to go about having foot washing services. I think while that might be a nice service once in a while that it is missing the point. Here's the story from John 13
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Take up the basen and the towel by ministering the love, grace and mercy of Jesus to someone who is having a difficult day or season. You do the washing with the word, and prayer, by listening and caring and standing with someone in their struggle. I don't think Jesus was looking for them to carry on some symbolic ceremony.
You know the dirt, and the stuff we would try and keep hidden even from you. In this moment you approach us with the basen of water and the towel. As a believer, you've had a bath but your spiritual feet have gotten dirty. If there is someplace where peace is absent and you need help, you've been praying about it and crying out to God. Accept the help that God sends you. Lord help us to not just give that stock "fine" as an answer when someone trusted asks us how we are doing. Help us to be open and honest. Help us to confess and share what is going on and help us to receive your cleansing. Lord and help us to be led by your Holy Spirit when you trust us to take up the towel for someone else.