Authority, transformation, and dirty feet

hi-pope-kissing-feetTrue authority presents itself in service and flows downward. Authentic change presents itself in justice through community and flows upward. Transformation happens when they meet in they dynamism of the Spirit. This is only accomplished through life in Christ.

I have washed feet and I have had my feet washed. No surprise that the getting washed was more challenging than the washing. Well, except for maybe when I had my feet washed by someone with whom I had a difficult relationship.

As a former corporate executive and leader, I can tell you that you can’t make anyone do anything. As an ordinary human, I can tell you that cannot make someone love you. Of course you can force people to do things, you can chase someone to no end, but no real authority, change, or love will come from that. The only change will be the disintegration that comes from anything to discomfort all the way to hate. This is not the integrity that emerges from the love known as agape.

jesus-washing-peters-feet-by-sieger-koderWhatever you do this Holy Thursday, whether you get your feet washed or you wash those of another, don’t think of any church service as a nice re-enactment. That is why the Eucharist is different, we are not re-enacting anything, we are not “getting” anything, we are not forced to something.

Eucharist is about what we give in love, put at the service of world in Christ. Eucharist is about how we are all transformed into what we are becoming. This can only happen in community, it is not a moment that is between any one of us and Jesus alone, it is about the whole, the entire Body of Christ – which is what we are becoming, through service and love.

Jesus is not saying something that is simply nice or simply challenging for us to hear when in tonight’s Gospel these words are proclaimed:

“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

We do not understand now, we will never fully understand, until our ultimate transformation. But our time here is not to be spent purifying ourselves and having what we perceive as a one-to-one relationship with Christ, because we have deluded ourselves into believe that through some kind of piety, we have made ourselves holy.As Jesus says, “Not all of you are clean.” He is addressing all of us.

We must surrender to let Jesus wash our feet, it is Christ who makes us clean or holy, and it is made so by our opening to Him in response.  We bow down in service, and then and only then, do we dare to stand as One in the authority as Christ. That bowing down in service feels like it may kill us – it does.  And in that death we find rising and new life. That is authentic authority, that is real change. that is the transforming love of God made flesh in the world. It is not some nice re-enactment. This is life in Christ.


3 thoughts on “Authority, transformation, and dirty feet

  1. Fran, I love the artwork you have accompanying your post. I once prayed about this foot washing in my imagination. I was Peter, and I had the kind of sandals that had no arch supports. That my feet were both aching and incredibly dusty does not begin to describe them. I was shocked when Jesus bent to wash my feet, but after I got over my shock and surrendered to him, the cool water felt great. This was not a ceremonial washing; Jesus had to do a bit of scrubbing and that scrubbing felt so good on my aching feet. I did not totally understand why he was doing this, after all we had servants to wash our feet before our meal, but what he was doing filled me with such comfort. I leaned toward his kneeling figure and I put my hands on his shoulders and in an impetuous burst (common for me). I told him that I loved him. Then I looked around the room. Everyone of us had had the same experience! The bond I felt with my brothers deepened. We were all so close at heart to each other…Later, I denied knowing this man. I was crushed when I heard the rooster crow three times. I remembered what Jesus had told me. He knew all this would happen, and yet he still loved me!


    • I’m late to approving this – so sorry, I’ve not been checking online too much. What a beautiful story you bring, I’m glad that the image spoke to you. Blessings and peace!


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