Foot washing – other than Maundy Thursday it’s more associated with with a pedicure than humble service. It brings to mind fluffy towels, foamy bubbles and scented moisturiser, not a minimum-wage job on a par with toilet-cleaner.
If I knew my feet were going to be washed in a church service, I’d make sure they were sparkling clean before hand and fit to be washed … which kind of defeats the purpose.
Here are some ideas for a Maundy Thursday with more of the punch that it had the first time round.
Wash away the stuff that really needs cleaning
This makes a powerful person devotion or focal-point for a service. Use it as a striking confession and absolution. Or try it for a school assembly, Messy Church, youth group or home group for a thoughtful Maundy Thursday.
You will need:
- Various washable markers
- Bowl of soapy water and towel
- Red permanent marker
… and a foot.
Use the washable markers to cover your foot or the foot of a volunteer with the things that really make us unclean. These might be personal failings that we want to confess to our Lord, or evils of society or the human condition.
Read the text (John 13:2b-14) and consider Jesus’ words: Unless I wash you, you have no share with me. … One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.‘
Wash away the sins and evils in the white, snowy bubbles while reading Psalm 51:7b: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Finally, dry the foot and use the permanent marker to draw a heart on the top, as a reminder of how this cleansing comes about. John 15:13: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Clean some feet that actually need cleaning
This would be good for a student or home group activity, particularly in urban settings.
Offer free pedicures to your local rough-sleeping community. A meal and change of socks would be good, too.
Clean the loos
This is probably the best modern equivalent to foot washing. Think how weird it would be to invite an honoured guest to preach at your church, but instead they pull on a pair of marigolds, ask where you keep the toilet brush, and get scrubbing!
Would the leaders of your church be prepared to do this?
John 13:2b-14 (NRSV)
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Psalm 51:7b (NRSV)
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
John 15:13 (NRSV)
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.