1. are awesome and
2. make me wildly uncomfortable
Case in point: Maundy Thursday.
I didn't actually know what that service entailed until I got there and learned that we would, as a congregation, be washing one another's feet. I was sitting with a friend, so there was no stranger danger [you know, when you're in danger of having to touch a stranger's foot], but still I was sweating it a little. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to touch her feet, because I felt confident her foot hygiene was just fine, and I didn't think she'd judge my washing techniques or anything. No, what made me nervous was having another person holding my feet in their hands. I hadn't prepared. I haven't had a pedicure in months, but this was going to happen even though my nail polish was chipped and my heels were calloused. Our feet, in a way, serve as a symbol of where we've been. In order to get anywhere our feet have to take us, so at the end of a day, our feet have on them all the mess of a day we lived and sinned in. That's a scary thing to put in the hands of another person.
I tried to put myself in the position of the disciples on that night when Jesus knelt before them and took their feet in his hands. I tried to imagine the panic that the disciples must have felt when they prepared to have their dirtiest part examined, up close and personal, by their leader, their savior, their mentor. I imagine their thoughts were similar to mine: COME AGAIN? We're going to do what, exactly? But I didn't prepare for this! I get why Simon Peter flipped out a little and tried to refuse. He wasn't ready, hadn't prepared. Had he known Jesus would be washing his feet, maybe he would have walked more carefully on his way over. Maybe he would have avoided that one place where things get especially messy. I thought of how I approach Jesus all the time - prepared, prettied, primped. Ready to go, looking my Sunday best. Heaven forbid he see the real, true, hot mess that is me.
But regardless of their lack of preparation, Jesus took their feet and washed them of the mess of the day. And in so doing, I think he sent a very clear message to the disciples (or at least, to me): I know. I know the very messiest parts of your mess. I know where you've been. And I know what I'm doing. Then he instructed them to do the same for each other. It was a symbol of humility, of service, yes. But I think it's also a command for vulnerability in community.
At our Good Friday service, we were given the opportunity to write down any sin we felt convicted of and nail it onto a giant wooden cross near the altar. [Revisit the above checklist for my feelings on this.] I thought of the most depraved parts of myself, and I scribbled them quickly, carefully onto the paper. I approached the cross, praying no one would see what I'd written, and the previous day's thoughts began circling in my head as I put together the pieces. I thought, my sin is too great. My list is too long. There's no way Jesus can cover this much. And there's no way, if Jesus had known what I would be doing, how I would betray and deny and doubt him, he would have done this for me.
But I wonder if it's not exactly what he was saying when he washed the disciples' feet. Jesus knew full well how awful you and I would be. He knew he would be betrayed and denied by the very men whose actual feet he washed. And God sacrificed Christ that we might be saved in spite of that. Jesus saw their feet. He knew their messiest, dirtiest, most shameful places. He knew, and he gave his life anyway.
For the season of Lent, we purposefully omit my favorite part of the liturgy of my church [which for the record 1. is awesome and 2. no longer makes me uncomfortable]. At the end of service every Sunday, we throw stuff at the cross. Not objects, that might get violent, but we mimic throwing stuff at the cross. It's the best. Our pastor says the "all of our..." part, and then all together we say the rest:
All of our problems - we send to the cross of Christ
All of our sins - we send to the cross of Christ
All the devil's works - we send to the cross of Christ
And all of our hopes - we set on the risen Christ
Today we will throw things again. Today is Easter and Easter is my favorite because it means that we are saved. We are free. We are loved. We have a place to throw our junk and a place to set our hopes. We have a Savior who loves to wash us clean and we have a community of believers to be our messy selves in. We get grace and mercy and all kinds of wonderful gifts we didn't earn and don't deserve.
I've had this song in my head all week:
To make me his treasure.
To make you his treasure.