Thursday, April 21, 2011

Footwashing, The Lord Gets His Hands Dirty and We Get Clean, John 13

Beloved of the Lord,

I want to talk about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Notice all the detail. John wants to call our attention to a very simple fact. Jesus is actually washing feet. What Jesus is doing here is not just an idea, an abstraction, Jesus is taking off his outer garments, girding himself, the basin, the water, and washing the mire and the muck off the feet of his followers. So before we get to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a symbol, as an example, first let’s just examine the bare fact: Jesus washing feet.
In those days a real need. Many went barefoot on unpaved roads, roads with all manner of mire and gook. When you came into a hospitable house, the master would direct a slave to wash your feet. Comforting to get all the dust off, maybe blood too from the stones, caked mire...get that off, ready to enjoy the party.
And before we go on I just want to pause and notice that God was always this way. God does come all the way down. God gets his hands dirty literally. Think of the very beginning, how God made Adam out of clay, getting his hands dirty. it says in Jeremiah, a prophecy of messiah, in that day Lord, you will do justice in the clay, in the dirt, in the earth. And we see that, Jesus remember how he spits in the dirt and makes clay and puts it in the blind man’s eyes, just a few chapters ago in John 9. Does justice literally in the earth.
But I just want to emphasize one more time, that it was always so, God walks in the garden, not floating, walks in the dust, God walks in the desert with his people Israel.
Example: Geography of Jerusalem not just with maps but under our feet. Good to do, God does it.
Example: Twitter, email, facebook, it’s the easy way of connecting, but we have to use it not be abused by it. Use it to make real friendship, the kind where there is sight and smell and touch. God didn’t wash the disciples feet by remote control, he got down there, on his knees, hands on their feet, fingers between their toes and cleaned them.

Now this is a symbol, but we have to understand what a symbol is. Sym bol, throw with, it’s like the first ball of a ball game, it is a sign of the rest. Better for me, (Barth) “audiovisual”. Communion helps. John’s gospel has the washing of the disciples feet instead of the Lord’s supper, but both things are audiovisuals forever audiovisuals, both things both communion and foot washing are audiovisuals of the cross, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, you are going to wash my feet? Jesus answered, “you do not see what I am doing now but after these things you will know. After these things, “these things” are Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. After these things, you will understand what I am doing now. Washing the disciples feet is an audiovisual of the cross, just like communion is our audiovisual of the cross.
Picture the Lord’s supper in the early church, a full meal, picture a table filled with good things, delicious roast beef, steaming mashed potatoes, hot rolls and butter, good fresh salads with tomato and avocado. Think of it the shared cup of wine that began the meal then the meal and then in the midst of the hilarity, the minister, takes the bread and gives all a touch of solemnity, this is my body broken for you and then the shared cup after the meal to close it all off, this is the cup of the new covenant sealed in my blood. This meal that I am describing is the symbol of what God has given on the cross. It’s an audiovisual of the cross. Isn’t that amazing. I am very grateful for the communion we have now
Example:(experience at Seminary....) it too is an audiovisual, it too is a symbol but maybe more like a symbol of a symbol
footwashing is an audiovisual of the cross. God comes all the way down, he not just rolls up his sleeves he takes off his shirt to slave for us, to cleanse us. And he does it. Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.
Now-- why don’t we have foot washing like we have communion? Peoples feet aren’t dirty. Sacrament on the margins. However, there might be some places in Africa that have real foot washing. the people come in dusty from the road in their flip flops or bare feet, maybe the elders, ready got their towels, stripped to waist, got the basin and maybe that’s the way they begin church. Beautiful I’d say were I visiting, what they’ve got going is the cross not explained in some sermon, but explained through action. The word of God not just in a sermon but in deed.

Close by saying it is an example: now we can’t do foot washing yet in U.S. Example: Benny Hinn, got down with hankie and dusted, moving, but a little misleading, not the cross,
but we learn from foot washing

God joyfully cleanses our filthy feet and he joyfully cleanse our filthy selves on the cross. This is our Messiah. And so, we need not be afraid in our churches in our denomination to be janitors
Example at my Dad’s church, dust, scrub, pick up cake crumbs, sewers overflowed my dad left with dry guck and stench. In our denomination there may be a lot of stinky things that we are called into, but God will not give us more than we can handle and he will enable us to handle the things he gives us. Presbyterians, realm of ideas, but now we may, in his grace, be called to be janitors.
Example: the terrible smell in Dad’s church’s basement: guck, he knew of this enzymatic cleaner, ate up the guck, no smell, God is going to give us enzymatic cleaner to clean up all spiritual enemies, inside and out. Fear not little children it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, fear not for I have overcome ( the mire, the deep filth) the world.

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