About ten days ago we gathered here in this space and reflected on the woman, Mary, who had the audacity to enter a room full of diners and anoint Jesus’ feet with a pound of very expensive ointment called “nard.” As she anointed his feet she wept, tears tumbling off her face and onto his feet. Tenderly she dried those tears and his feet with her hair. Mary’s love for Jesus was deep and generous.
Now tonight we gather here and reflect on another story about feet. This time it is Jesus who is washing feet, all the feet of his friends who have come for supper, and then drying them with a towel. Another tender act of deep and generous love.
A stranger to the Christian faith might wonder about all this talk about feet. Might think we are little odd, perhaps?
I know plenty of people who dislike feet, find them dirty or gross. People who don’t even like their own feet. I’ve never felt that way. I happen to like feet, even my own. They are odd, my feet, very narrow heels, wide balls and toes, and high arches. Shoes have often been a problem, pinching my toes or slipping off my heels and leaving blisters. Perhaps that is one reason I like to go barefoot.
As a child I ran around barefoot all summer long. It was the custom in the west, maybe it was here in the Midwest too, back some 40 years ago. I climbed trees and ran through grass and played red-light green light with the neighbor kids, all of us in our barefeet. Later I studied modern dance and danced barefoot. And then even later, I learned a thing or two about foot reflexology.
Foot reflexology believes that every organ of the body has a corresponding “point” in the foot. For example the toes are the “point” for our eyes and sinuses. The ball of the foot is the lung – right foot/right lung, left foot/left lung. The arch of each foot contains the points for our spine – the neck is at the joint of the big toe, the back runs through the arch and the lumbar area is the heel. There are points for the kidneys and liver and intestines. A reflexologist moves his or her thumbs across the feet feeling for lumps and bumps that indicate a build up of energy in the corresponding organ and then works the bump in an effort to release the energy and bring restoration to that organ and overall health.
Whether or not you have had a reflexology treatment or believe in such treatments, feet are really amazing. They hold us up and connect us to the earth. And on this night our feet reach through the ages right into the hands of Jesus. As each one of us took a turn at washing and being washed we became Jesus for one another. Jesus who tenderly took the feet of the ones he loved most, poured warm water over them, washed them, and dried them.
Tonight we have remembered through our feet. The water that washes our feet reminds us of our own baptism. Baptism is the moment in time when we become “Christian” when we receive the Holy Spirit and enter into the Body of Christ, the Church, the Christian family. Tonight we have remembered through our feet – remembered, like the energy that connects the foot to the organs of the body in reflexology, our feet, being washed connect us to the body, to one another, to Jesus, to the Church through out these last 200o years of Christian faith. But this foot washing, is only part of us, part of living our faith…just like baptism is the first step, the first part of our life as a Christian. Baptism initiates us into a lifetime of living as the hands and heart of Christ – of offering love and compassion to all – in the same generous way that Mary offered it to Jesus when she anointed his feet, in the same compassionate way that Jesus offered it when he washed the feet of his friends – we are called by baptism, and reminded by the Maundy Thursday footwashing, of our call to live and love generously.