In recent days, I’ve been dealing with a ‘pain flare’, where pain is much more severe and longer lasting than it’s usual bubble-in-the-background level. This, not the bank holiday is the reason for the lateness of this post. However, the following event was the brightest spot in my misery last week!
An Act of Remembrance…
Last Thursday afternoon was our monthly Holy Communion Service, held in the afternoon rather than the usual late morning time-slot. Coinciding with Holy Week, the annual remembrance of the final week of Jesus’ life, from Palm Sunday onwards.’Maundy Thursday’ is the annual day when Christians reflect on Jesus final meal with his disciples. ‘The Last Supper’, as this meal is commonly known, is when Jesus reveals to His disciples the real purpose of his life. Far from being a Warrior King who intended to end the Roman Occupation once and for all, at Easter, we remember that, according to the Will of His Father, Jesus gave Himself that we might be set free from sin and reconciled to a relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Usually our monthly service has 4 or 5 of us in attendance. With Easter so close, I tried extra hard to let people know what we doing and why, and prayed for God to work in hearts, before, during and after the service. I’m not easily surprised, but the decent sized sitting room was packed with 7 residents at various stages of faith, relatives, a couple of members of the congregation, as well as the priest (vicar) herself. A mismatched community, all worshiping together makes my heart sing, and no doubt God’s heart too. I loved having to ask people to move up, to make room for someone else’s [wheel]chair!
I’m not sure how many of you reading this will have been to a Maundy Thursday service or meal, but there is often an opportunity to volunteer to have a foot (or feet) washed. This is an act of service, demonstrating Jesus servanthood, because a king, would usually be served, rather than serve others, and this act symbolises the cleansing that Jesus offers us through his saving work on the cross. Three residents, including myself, eagerly agreed to having a foot washed. There was a Bible reading in the form of a drama, focusing on the scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, and a short act of Eucharist or Communion. Those not wishing to partake could opt for a blessing or prayer instead.
Including the Excluded
Those watching on during the foot washing were visibly moved. The power of including those who are often sidelined should not be underestimated. Aside from being more time consuming, (think removing walking boot type shoes/calipers etc.) the vicar/priest freely washed the feet of those very often excluded, or not thought of at all. Each of us were asked to shout or squeal if removing boots or slipping off/on of socks hurt in any way. Loud noise in a communion service isn’t usually welcomed, much less expected. Now nobody flinches should someone start coughing, or should somebody’s foot hammer on the footrest from spasms.
Doing as Jesus did, and does…
I’m not sure that the vicar herself realised the significance of what she was doing until after the service was over. Keen not to let the moment slip by, I went over to chat, and explained what I was thinking. Jesus went out of his way to spend time with those left out and marginalised, and He too would have washed our feet. It was humbling to be included and so cared for, when many times I’ve felt excluded. Members of the congregation now accompany the vicar (priest) each month. By creating a worshipping, inclusive community, this church is helping to change society in myriad small acts which do not go unnoticed by Jesus himself, and God the Father.
I’m praying that those in attendance will continue to think about what they saw and heard that day. and especially than each may have a personal encounter with the Saviour who willing gave Himself, body and blood to reconcile them to himself. The vicar washed our feet, but Jesus cleanses our souls!
Happy Easter Everyone!
2 thoughts on “Communion, Community, and the washing of feet – An Easter Reflection”
Just beautiful. This post warmed my soul. Thank you! I love that some members of the vicar’s congregation were there too.
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It’s amazing the power that something so “simple” as a foot washing can have. Although it was such a common, though expected, act in the time of Christ, the very fact that the King of Kings would perform this menial (and I’m sure more often than not disgusting) task always blows my mind.
I remember in college, I was the 2007-2008 “Sweetheart” (an honorary female member elected by the brotherhood) of Sigma Theta Epsilon, a national Christian fraternity here in America. When it came time for the school year to end, each graduating brother would give a talk at Brotherhood about what STE meant to them and how they had grown in their relationship with the Lord. That year, one of my good friends, Kyle, performed a footwashing for every single member of the brotherhood (42 brothers plus myself and two advisors) and I remember sitting in the chair bawling my eyes out as he washed my feet and told me how much my friendship and womanly Christian leadership had helped him. It made me think that even if Christ didn’t speak as He washed each disciple’s feet (I guess we don’t know for sure), that by the act itself, He was telling the disciples how He loved them so.