Just imagine the condition of those feet. If you've traveled through poor countries, it's common to see folks walking barefoot or in simple sandals or flip flops through the muddy, garbage and sewage filled streets. ( The picture is of street kids in Cambodia learning about basic sanitation.)
In washing their feet, Jesus gives them the final lesson of what discipleship is all about: serving others. Soon after his death and resurrection, he will be on a hill top before he ascends back to the Trinity to give them their ultimate marching orders. He passes on the mission to them.
During Lent I had a couple of grace filled moments where I came to a deeper understanding of what it means to do God's mission.
The first was in talking to a Kindergarten teacher in Seattle. Without any hesitation she told me how her 5 and 6 year old students were missionaries. Through her gentle guidance these youngster understand that they have an important job to do in helping others experience God's love, whether through how they play together in the classroom or how they interact with their parents or siblings at home. Each day brings opportunities to share God's love. Reminds me of the poem about All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
The second was in Jamaica on an immersion trip to visit the missions and projects of the local church there. One day we were at Hope Hospice, a place created to respond to the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS that had no one to care for them at the end of the their lives. Going in we expected to find folks who were sick and suffering and likely depressed and lonely. As we went from room to room we encountered some of the most hopeful and joyful people. It became clear that they were ministering to us. One woman who had both her legs amputated shared with me how she has a mission to bring God's love to everyone she encounters, whether it's her fellow patients, visitors or her care givers. She sang a song for us about passing on God's love. See the video.
The last was from a letter a friend send me after our parish mission. She has an adult daughter with Down's Syndrome and has had the difficult journey of watching her daughter's slow decline over the years. Way back around Thanksgiving, she was told that her daughter was near the end of her life. As much as she could, she prepared herself for her daughter's death, but she hasn't died yet. In trying to make sense of this, she talked with her son who said, "Mom, she has not completed her mission on earth! She is showing love to others, and the nurse and aides are learning from it."
Not the typical people you'd pick to carry on your mission: kindergartens, HIV/AIDS hospice patients and a woman with Down Syndrome. They are doing what Jesus said to do: washing the feet of others. What humbled me was to think that if God works through them, if they can be effective missionaries of his love, could I possibly have any excuse or obstacle that would prevent me from doing my part to carry on the mission. I say this not out of a sense of guilt but a deepening sense of trying become more aware of God's love in my life. And as I am more and more open to that, I am more and more immersed in God's love, and the more and more I realize it, I want to pass it on.
Go out and wash some feet!