or, "Meeting God in a new city"
It was just before the Passover Festival.
It was a Friday night in October.
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
I'd left the routine and the bustle of Chicago to escape with my new church to Cedar Lake. We'd heard a talk and played some pool, and I'd retreated to my room for some quiet time to read.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
Moving to a new place is weird. You suddenly have to think about things like how you're going to make friends and where to find food and go to church, and to be honest you can't really remember ever making friends - it feels like you've just always been close to the people you know and you have no idea how it ever got that way. And suddenly you have a whole new routine and slowly this completely new apartment you've rented is starting to feel like a home, and---
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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.
I look down at my own feet. They're not great. They're awkwardly large and kind of weirdly shaped and I have two ingrown toenails and I wore black socks today, so there's black fluff stuck to them and I have a callus on the ball of my left foot that's starting to peel a bit.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
And if I'm being honest it's not like my soul is doing that much better. I haven't been praying much since I got to Hyde Park, and I've been so focused on suddenly being a grad student that I haven't really taken the time to think about loving the people I care about or volunteering or trying to be a better person. I ignored a homeless guy I saw walking home today - not because I didn't have a dollar or because I didn't want to give it to him, but because I didn't really want to talk to anybody.
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
I've seen glimpses of God since arriving here. The people at my new church have been incredibly inviting, and I've felt incredibly loved and welcomed. People remembering my name and letting me sit with them and inviting me to their homes and---
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Because I don't deserve it. Because I'm kind of a mess. Because it's fine if you don't. Because someone else needs it more. Because it makes me feel vulnerable. Because I don't want you to go out of your way.
Because I'm just me.
And what if that's not good enough?
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
And so, the God of the universe ---
---the same God who splits seas and burns mountains ---the same God who designed every galaxy and every star ---the same God who invented the idea of sunsets ---the same God who's been around for billions and billions of years. ---the same God who decided light should always travel the same speed ---the same God who's watched nations rise and empires fall. ---the same God who knows every secret in every hidden place. ---the same God who angels fall down and worship
--- stoops down and holds my weird, ugly feet in his hands and says "let me wash these for you."
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Not just my feet but my soul.
And my heart.
And my thoughts.
And the parts of me that are mean, and grumpy, and tired.
The parts that hurt people, and ignore God, and don't think of anybody else.
The raw ugly parts that I don't want anyone to see because I'm scared they wouldn't like me anymore.
Because it's really hard to shake the feeling that to be loved you need to be somebody worth loving.
Because it's easy to think in generalities like "God loves everyone" or even "God loves me"
But the particulars are hard And a little scary
And it's easier to imagine God as loving you from afar Perhaps thinking of you occasionally Perhaps he loves you in a general sense of loving all mankind
And it's easier to imagine a God who's very big And all His attention is on things like countries and worlds and galaxies And He doesn't have time to worry about your little problems And so you're in control.
But when he breaks into your heart When he sits down and washes your feet He seems rather small. And you feel rather small. And you don't feel particularly in control And the idea of that is hard And a little scary.
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
Judas Iscariot is going to betray him So Jesus says he isn't clean. And excludes him from the promises.
But not Peter.
Not Peter, who Jesus in the very same speech predicts will desert him when he needs it most.
Not Peter, who as soon as following Jesus became dangerous and uncomfortable pretended three times not to know him.
Not Peter, whose personal waffling with regards to the Jewish law would nearly destroy the burgeoning Christian church before it even got off the ground.
Not Peter. Because Christ's love has made him clean Despite all his objections And all his doubt And everything he's done And the problems he's caused And everything he'll continue to screw up Jesus has deemed him worthy of love And I guess that's enough
When he had finished washing their feet,
When he had finished welcoming me to his church When he had finished taking me out for lunch When he had finished inviting me to his house When he had finished asking me to sit with him When he had finished listening to me talk about math When he had finished sitting patiently while I complained When he had finished helping me with the problem set When he had finished washing my feet
He put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
"Do you understand what I have done for you?"
"Do you understand how many people I've helped?"
"Do you understand what it means that I created you?"
"Do you understand who I am?"
No. Not really. But maybe a little bit. A little bit more than before. And maybe that's the best I can hope for.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Because love is a complicated thing.
It's tender and it's intimate and it's difficult and sometimes you don't know what to do, and sometimes you know what to do but it's hard and you're busy and tired and the people you're called to love are a little rough around the edges and it's uncomfortable and maybe if you're being honest you'd rather be doing something else.
But it's not something you muster up from nowhere
At least, it doesn't have to be.
Not if God loved us first.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
And so we should love people unconditionally.
And it's easy to say.
But it's hard. And a little scary.
Because it's one thing to love the people you imagine It's easy in the sunny world The fantasy world Where differences don't really matter And people are all the same underneath
It's harder to love people who actually are.
When you stop to talk to a homeless man And you find a lot of his views are repulsive Until he's shouting the n-word at you What do you do?
When somebody tells you they voted for Trump Because Clinton wouldn't uphold "Christian values" What do you do?
When someone denigrates your beliefs Or insults things you hold sacred And the casualness of it all hurts What do you do?
Do you wash their feet?
Do you invite them into your house? Into your church?
I don't know.
Whatever the right thing is, it's hard. And a little scary.
The Gospel of John keeps going. And Jesus has a lot more to say. But it's a Friday night in October. And I feel a peace And a warmth And I drift off to sleep in His arms.