Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

Tonight I had the privilege of being one of few to worship at Mount Vernon UMC here in Washington, DC.

This is a place I have instantly begun to feel at home in. After only having attended once before (on Sunday), I already recognized faces and even remembered a couple of names. I found the place incredibly familiar and didn’t really feel like a visitor. It is an incredible feeling to have that feeling in a church. Especially in a city that is in so many ways still foreign to me.

It could be said that it is common for a service of footwashing to occur tonight: Maundy Thursday. It is the night that we not only remember Jesus’ last supper and sharing of bread with his disciples, but it is also the night that Jesus humbled himself - and his disciples - and washed their feet. Jesus didn’t just invite that his disciples - and all of us - follow his lead and humble ourselves as servants: Jesus commanded it.

That always strikes me. That Jesus commanded something: and yet we only really talk about it and act on it once a year. It got me to thinking about other ways we figuratively “wash one anothers’ feet.”

I was thinking about this as I went up to have my feet washed by the Deacon of the church: my good friend Jason. I observed the care with which he poured the warm water on my feet, and how delicate and intentional his hands were as they “worked” to dry my feet. This process really is humbling and beautiful.

Then came the hard part: I sat down.

Let me be honest: especially as Holy Week has arrived, I have missed serving in a church. Crazy, I know: but while all of my clergy friends are running around fretting, my life has carried on “normal” and my only focus on the holiness of this week came tonight: at a service I thought about not attending because I was so tired.

So as I sat in my pew half thinking about servanthood and Jesus’ commandment, I was also half thinking about wanting to be more actively involved in leadership (and leading worship) in a church.

That’s when it happened: I literally had to restrain myself.

I saw my Deacon friend Jason kneeling, sitting before the bucket with water and clean towels, waiting to wash others’ feet: but no one was coming. We had finished: the last person was having their feet washed by the pastor on the other side of the room. But Jason just waited. As if he didn’t notice.

And the longer he sat there, the more I thought, “I should go over there. Someone should wash his feet.” The voice telling me to do so grew louder and louder as I contemplated what to do. Was this the voice of God telling me to go and bless him in this way? Or was this my other voice: the one who wants to be involved. The one who has a hard time letting go. and most of all: the one who has a hard time just being served.

I didn’t go.

I wish I could say it was because this last part occurred to me in time to be content and listen more closely to Jesus’ command to be humbled and both serve and be served.

But I can’t say that.

All I can say, is that I didn’t go because about the time I had convinced myself it would be okay and I wouldn’t be stepping on toes in this new (albeit homely) church if I did so, the music stopped and I realized the others had finished.

Before I knew it the candles were extinguished and the alter was being stripped.

Before I had time to finish processing, people were starting to leave in silence.

Silence that came too quick. I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t ready for it.

But all the same: it has arrived. let the night of prayer and fasting begin as we move onward toward Good Friday...

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