Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The towel

I haven't blogged yet this year. And here we are, January 19. Wow.

After the whirlwind of the holidays, I made a trip back to Kentucky to help take care of some family business. No, I'm not in the mafia. My father, for quite a few years now, has suffered from an Alzheimer's type of dementia. He is quite weak physically and can speak very little. He has no ability to take care of himself. He is living with my sister and her five kids.

On the weekend, there was a guest speaker at my sister's church from Liberty University, Dr. David Wheeler (he's the 2nd one down). This man gave a great message. He talked about how we as a church have given in to indifference to the dying world around us and have acted entitled to a church experience that serves us and our needs. He gave a stirring reminder of Jesus' calling to serve rather than be served.

Jesus told his students that if they wanted to be great in God's kingdom, they would serve. At the last supper, Christ took a towel and did the work of a servant (diakonos - the lowest servant where we get the word 'deacon') and washed his friend's feet. Dr. Wheeler told us that past all our programs and planning and buildings and stuff, the greatest tool we have as Christians to reach out to the world is the towel.

I think we get the idea that Jesus took up the towel as an object lesson to his friends. That maybe he was self aware and he was really going to teach these guys a lesson. "Wow, this is going to blow their minds, I'm the savior of the world and I'm going to wash their feet!" But it wasn't this. Jesus simply wanted to serve his friends. He wanted to refresh them, help them feel clean and comfortable.

We can have the tendency to turn this into a removed symbol, putting air quotes around "washing feet". I remember the symbolic foot washings we had in our church as a kid. Everyone pre-washed their feet and made sure they had on clean socks. We can turn anything, even some of the most beautiful moments in the history of the universe, into lifeless ritual.

Everyday, at my sister's house, she literally takes up the towel and uses it to serve a vulnerable man. She helps him feel clean, comfortable and refreshed. She does this simply out of love. This is the ministry of Christ. If you want to be like Jesus, be like my sister.


Ruth said...

Love it. Praying for your sister, her children and your dad. It's where the rubber meets the road.

Your Friend Aaron said...

And where the towel meets the foot.