All may, some should, none must.
We say this before NOSH every week at the Edge House as an invitation for the assembly to participate as is helpful to them. Everyone is invited to participate regardless of who they are and what they’re carrying. Some of us perhaps shouldengage with certain parts, but that awareness is up to the individual to be honest with yourself. And no one is required to participate. This invitation at NOSH applies equally to the traditional footwashing service on Maundy Thursday.
“Footwashing?” you might be saying to yourself. “Really? We don’t do that here, it’s too uncomfortable.” Or maybe some of you are saying to yourself, “Finally! I’m so excited!” Two of Good Shepherd’s pastors represent each end of this scale.
Footwashing makes Pastor Alex’s skin crawl: it’s far too intimate, it requires far too much vulnerability, and to be perfectly honest, it’s gross. When Jesus wrapped that towel around his waist and started washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, they were weirded out, too. Peter, appalled by what Jesus was doing, said, “No, man, you can’t wash my feet!” As much as Alex can agree that vulnerability, intimacy, and getting to the real nitty-gritty of service is what Jesus had in mind for his disciples to help them grow in faith, he sides with Peter’s first reaction to this challenge. Even more than that, he would say, “No, absolutely not. Not only will you NOT wash my feet, I will make certain guarantees that if you touch my feet, we are never making eye contact again.” He hastens to add that he understands how helpful the practice is to others and he’s happy to be in the room.
Meanwhile, Pastor Alice loves everything about footwashing. The vulnerability, the spaciousness around waiting for the next person to approach, the gift both of having your own feet washed as well as of washing someone else’s, even the deep awkwardness of it. And don’t get us wrong, it isawkward. But that’s actually part of the point. It was awkward back then, it’s awkward now. When something’s awkward, it means there’s something real and vulnerable happening, and God is in the midst of it. As someone who thinks of herself as self-sufficient, Alice finds receiving care from someone else humbling and spiritually-filling. Like being in the woods or looking up to a startlingly-blue sky, she feels like she can breathe clearly again.
Where are you on the scale of Pastor “absolutely not” Alex to Pastor “yes, please” Alice? Are you somewhere in the middle? Do you find yourself leaning towards the “none must” end of things or seeing within yourself a sense of “some should” and a need to try it out? Wherever you find yourself, please come to the Edge House’s Maundy Thursday observance on April 11 at 7:30pm including a light “Agape” dinner. All are invited to eat, to pray or meditate, to have your feet washed, or just to observe. Perhaps some of you should engage with it. And no one must.