One sunny afternoon in 1987 I found myself having lunch with my boss, who was the owner of an interior design firm, and his clients, Maria Tall Chief Paschen and her husband Buddy. A dance major in college, I was thrilled, and a little intimidated to have lunch with this prima ballerina. I don’t remember much from that lunch, and I’m sure I said very little. However the topic of dance must have come up because I recall her comparing modern dance and ballet saying, in what I perceived as a condescending tone, that ballet was a much more sophisticated form of dance than those moderns “danced in their bare feet”. If Maria were still alive she’d probably be aghast that many modern ballerina’s now perform in the traditional ballet pointe shoes as well as in bare feet.
I have always loved being barefoot. Maybe it’s the result of growing up in the west, where everything is more informal? I recall spending all day outside, usually barefoot, climbing trees and running through fields and grass until my feet were scrapped up and dirty. Evening foot baths were a requirement before getting into bed.
So when I hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of his friends I understand the need for clean feet after a day of walking in dirt and dust, and the luxury of soothing hands pouring warm water and massaging feet with soap, rinsing, and then drying them with a towel.
Reflexologists believe that every organ of the body has a corresponding pressure point in the feet. Applying pressure to the points relieves ailments in that region of the body. They might say that the whole body is in feet.
When Jesus responds to Peter’s exuberant cry, “not just my feet, but all of me!” I wonder if Jesus had the same idea about feet - that the whole body could be accessed through the feet. It wasn’t necessary to wash all of Peter, his feet would be enough.
We might think of feet as dirty, or gross, or ugly. Having someone wash one’s feet may make one feel vulnerable and self-conscious. Feet can be ticklish. And some people never want to bare their feet in public, for what-ever reason. It’s just plain awkward to participate in the foot washing portion of Maundy Thursday. If I weren’t the priest and leading the service, I’m not sure I’d expose my feet and let someone else wash them. And yet, what we do here tonight, washing feet and sharing bread and wine seems to indicate that for Jesus there is a connection, a mystical relationship between foot washing, baptism, Holy Communion and the body of Christ. This mystical relationship is lost on us if we over think it. It is a sensory relationship, felt, experienced inside, a spiritual connection between us here today and Jesus and his friends on that night long ago.
Participating in the body of Christ is rarely clean, neat, or easy. It’s often messy, and risky, and requires some willingness to be vulnerable, to step out of our comfort zone in order to respect the dignity of others, and extend kindnesses that exceed our usual inclinations. Being the body of Christ means having the stamina to stay in relationship with those who challenge us. It means recognizing that the violence of the world, the bombings and the killing of innocent people, is not what God is asking of the faithful. Acts of violence are human actions built on fear and greed and selfishness. Being the body of Christ is about being connected, all of us, like feet to heart to hands, with friends and strangers alike. Peter’s late to the party but exuberant, “Take all of me!” reminds us that if we show up often enough and are willing, then participating in the body of Christ pries open our hearts to the reality of God’s grace. All Jesus needs, to share this grace, is a foot, a little bit of us, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
a reflection for Maundy Thursday....
a reflection for Maundy Thursday....