Thursday, April 9, 2009
Maundy Thursday Foot Washing
A small Chinese man, with a noticeable limp, walks across the room, then bends down to wash twelve pairs of feet. The man is Bishop Tai, a remarkable person, who has a Ph.D. from one of the German universities (yes, I'm of German ancestry so I'm impressed by that). The twelve pairs of feet belong to assorted pastors and leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong. Middle-aged feet mostly, with calloused heels from the endless walking one does here in Hong Kong. A pair of bony, elderly feet. The feet of the previous bishop, a woman. Very few if any really nice feet, but then how many people do you know with really nice feet?
I'm not usually a fan of these "let's have the pastor play Jesus" ritualized Maundy Thursday foot washings. For one thing, it's usually seemed presumptuous to me... why should the pastor play the part of Jesus? Isn't it better that we should take turns washing each other's feet? For years that's what we did with our confirmation students & adult guides, out in the fellowship hall, with big bowls of warm sudsy water, laughing. And year after year, it was amazing how these turned into memorable and moving events. One year I got to wash one of my own teen aged sons' feet, and if memory serves me correctly, he then did mine. Another time I watched members of the varsity hockey team drying off each other's toes. So that's how I've done it all these years, informally, with splashing and laughing.
But this year it was good to sit in the background and watch, the gentleness and humility of a Bishop of the Church.
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." -- Jesus