"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A two minute meditation on footwashing

Now then: feet.

Aren't they gross?

No, really. Aren't they? Well, usually, anyway.

I could never be a chiropodist. There is something deeply unattractive about feet. If ever I was an actor called upon to do a nude scene I'd have to have a foot double.

Spreading midriff? Well, that comes with the territory I supppose. I can live with that - and the man-boobs too, but feet?

No way!

We've reached the point in the Christian calendar when feet are in.

Big time.

Today Christians celebrate the occasion when Jesus washed his disciples' feet and some churches act that out with the vicar washing the feet of the congregation.

What's that all about?

I was quite uncomfortable the first time I ever saw this done but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.



Well, think of it like this: forget about feet. What unpleasant thing would you be prepared to do to show how much you cared for someone?

Well, it's like that. Simple as.

The disciple Peter tried to resist Jesus washing his feet. I like Peter. I didn't like the vicar washing my feet. It didn't seem right. And yet it makes real sense this week in the lead up to Easter. Jesus does something loving and humble for those he loves and it confuses and upsets them.

Later this week we remember a more significant event where Jesus does something else for those he loves and again it confuses and upsets them.

He goes to his death.

Jesus washed his friends feet as one day, when I'm a vicar - dispite all my misgivings - I will too and, in doing so, I will stand in for him.

I will do something seemingly off-the-wall but at the same time deeply personal and intimate and yes, something a bit unpleasant.


Because its not really about feet is it? Jesus wanted to say something about himself: about compassion, about love, about friendship and committment...and about the fact that he was going on to do something even more disgusting to do with love, compassion, friendship and committment.


So, other people's feet: corns, bunyons and the ugly rest. And what am I left with now?

A vision of another's feet: bloodied, bruised and nailed together to a piece of wood as a way of showing love.


  1. I read this a little earlier and walked away. I too am not much of a foot fan. And yet this is one of my favorite services. I will neither wash nor be washed tonight, but it is a humbling experience.

    Easter joy to you and yours.

  2. I have just seen foot-washing introduced for the first time in this Church of Scotland parish by the new minister and it was deeply moving. Uncomfortable, yes, but all of Holy Week should be uncomfortable for us and more.

  3. "Sir", yours is a lovely two-minute meditation. The very first time I had my feet washed, it was painfully difficult. After that, it was not quite so hard, but it's still not easy. I've never been the foot-washer, but I wonder which is harder. And then, as you said, it's not really about feet.

    I like that you said, "...as one day, when I'm a vicar...."

  4. Not on your wavelength with the re-enactment of the foot-washing. Taking it out of 1st century culture and slotting it into 21st century liturgy has never sat easy with me. It seems to be more often about the vicar proclaiming how humble he is to be doing it, rather than an act of loving service. Much better to go down to the night shelter and wash the clothes of those who come in off the streets. Or to a care home and wash the bodies of the soiled, and all without fanfare or proclamation.
    I omitted the foot-washing in the liturgy last night (Maundy Thursday), and since there were only 6 people besides myself there, it's probably just as well!