John 13: 1-17 (NRSVA)
1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7 Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8 Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9 Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
In one of my previous incarnations prior to ministry I worked as a Holistic Therapist. Two of the treatments I offered were foot treatments: pedicures and reflexology.
Perhaps it is because they ground us to the earth but people can be funny about their feet. Many people hide their feet away and many don’t want another person to touch their feet. I therefore always thought it was special when someone wanted a pedicure or reflexology.
There was an intimacy in the soaking and then rubbing someone’s feet with sweet smelling oils and lotions. As their feet were massaged they would relax and barriers they put up for protection would melt away and they would share glimpses of their true self, their thoughts, their feelings, stories of their lives, their hurts and sometimes even their secrets.
Fast forward a number of years and I worked in a homeless shelter. I found myself again caring for feet. Not the perfumed feet this time but feet weary of life, feet smelling of dirt and sweat.
The clean socks given to warm and comfort, cold, worn wet feet.
New shoes given to shelter feet that had got used to the biting seepage of rain and snow.
The cream applied to broken, abscessed, needle-scarred skin.
These too were moments of intimacy, seeing someone exactly as they were, raw, vulnerable in pain. Seeing them as God saw them and loving them.
I like to present a certain image of myself to the world,
good at what I do.
But you Lord see me exactly as I am.
You kneel before me
and take hold of my feet,
the feet I would rather hide.
And you wash them.
In this moment,
as you touch me,
I am fully myself,
raw and vulnerable.
As you clean away the dirt,
I see I am enough,
and I am loved.