Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top Ten Questions God Asks Us- Number Ten

I feel a little bit like Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. I acknowledge that most of you probably don’t know who Johnny Carson was. Carson was the host of the Tonight Show for many years; when he retired, Jay Leno took over. Anyway, Carson did a routine call Carnac in which he was a soothsayer who would give the answers to questions having never before seen the questions. His sidekick, Ed McMahon, would hold the questions in an envelope. Without fail, he would hold the last envelope in his hand and say: “I hold in my hand the last envelope.” And, the audience would erupt into wild applause.

This is the tenth question that God asks us in our series of ten questions God asks us. This is the last question. Do I hear wild applause? The question is: “Do you know what I have done to you?”

The question comes in chapter 13 of John’s Gospel. It’s after the Passover meal with his disciples. Jesus gets up from table and takes off his outer garment. He takes a towel and a basin of water and starts to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter is first and he protests that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, should not be washing his feet. Jesus says: “If I don’t wash your feet, you have no part in me…” Peter says: “Then, not just me feet, wash my hands, my head, my whole body…”

It’s an utterly absurd act. Everyone walked in those days, you remember. The roads were dusty. Someone’s feet would be dirty after only walking a short distance. Feet would perhaps be wounded by rocks or sticks along the way. When you arrived at someone’s house, the host would order the servant to wash your feet.

You knew is someone was rich if they had a servant to wash your feet. A host would never wash feet. So, when Jesus, Mr. Savior of the world, gets on hands and knees to wash feet, it seems totally out of place.

Jesus washes all their feet and then asks: “Do you know what I have done to you?” This is a teaching moment. Jesus is teacher and Lord. But what about this? In my sermon on this, I said that I thought Jesus was saying three things here. He was saying first: I touched you. I touched you at the place where your pain is most real. I touched you at the place where the filth and dirt of the world have collected. He also said: I gave you example.

This was kind of an acted-out parable. Since I have washing your feet (loved you), you ought to wash one another’s feet (love each other).

There are some churches in which this foot-washing action is a sacrament. Just as we see in Holy Communion and Baptism the action of God, they see in foot-washing the sacramental action of God.

It was 1991. I was pastor at Socastee UMC. It was Maundy Thursday when we read this text and talk about it with the congregation before we have Communion together. My mother was there in a wheel chair. She had been diagnosed with Scleroderma, which is an arthritic condition with no treatment. It attacks the major organs of the body. It was attacking her lungs and that caused all kinds of problems.

I served her Holy Communion at church; I’ll never forget it. Later that night as I was helping her get to bed in my bed my mother said: “David, will you rub my feet; my feet hurt so much.” A light went on. Just as I have done this to you; so you…Do you know what I have done to you. In a kind of sacrament I returned the grace that she had given me and rubbed her feet.

In millions of ways, Jesus example is lived out in the church as you serve and love each other. Do you know what I have done to you? Yes, you took a towel, a basin of water, and a cross...

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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