Friday, March 13, 2009

Feetwashing thought, and other maundy things

I've been thinking about our upcoming Maundy Thursday service at church. I think I'm going to change it this year. Usually we have a light meal - kind of like the Last Supper - and we take communion from the bread and juice served with the meal. Also, in our denomination, we observe Feetwashing as an ordinance. So we usually break up - men with men, and women with women - and wash one anothers feet. In John 13 Jesus says, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (v.14). We take that literally.

But as I was planning the service, and the Scripture readings and things... it occurred to me that... what if in our literal interpretation of this passage, we're actually missing the point of it? I mean, I believe the point Jesus is trying to make is about humility and service to one another. And even though we talk about that, I wonder if sometimes we don't subconsciously miss it, because in the back of our mind it registers instead as simply "I washed someone's feet on Maundy Thursday and therefore am humble and service-oriented"? Is it possible to give symbolic acts so much credence that we lose sight of what they are symbolizing? It's not meant to be a one-night thing, but a lifetime thing; all the time.

I don't know for sure what I will do yet. But I am thinking of just having a time of meditation on the subject, instead of actually doing it. Especially after seeing this quote by Martin Luther on D.D.'s blog:
If one does rightly meditate on the suffering of Christ for a day, an hour, or even a quarter of an hour, this we may confidently say is better than a whole year of fasting, days of psalm singing, yes, than even one hundred masses, because this reflection changes the whole man and makes him new, as he was in baptism.

So wouldn't the same thing apply to feetwashing? Better to meditate on the meaning, than to just wash somebody's feet.

Anyway, I am also forcing myself to not put so much into the Maundy Thursday service this year. For some reason I usually spend more time and energy on this service than any other service during the year (probably because it's one of my favorites). And yet it is inevitably one of the lowest attended. I think last year we only had 6 people show up. So we will not be doing the Stations of the Cross, or the meal, or any of the time-consuming scenery changes. We'll just read some Scripture, sing a couple songs, take communion, and that will be that.


MR said...

I think if you want to bring up attendence you should make sure everyone knows you won't be doing the foot washing--I'm sure there are people out there who are self-conscious about that, so it will be interesting to see if your numbers go up when the physical act becomes a meditation of the principal. But I don't think I'm telling you anything here.

Jim said...

I think if you're going to take things literally from the Last Supper then you need to be serving wine, not grape juice! That would up attendance, too. :o)

dan horwedel said...

You guys are both probably right. I'm not sure upping attendance is my big concern though.

I think there is sometimes this mindset - again, not stated, but in the back of our mind - that "I'm more spiritual than all those people who didn't come and wash feet." When the truth might be they are really mean and self-centered people (Not that I'm saying anyone is). But I think it's much easier to just take an hour out of your life and grin and bear it to wash someone's feet (and give the appearance - or make ourselves think so) than to actually internalize what Christ is teaching here.

So, all that said, now I'm wondering if I should tell or not. Maybe it would be better to NOT tell people we're NOT going to be washing actual feet. I dunno. I was not going to put as much energy into it last year either, and I ended up doing it anyway.

Jim said...

Oh, I got what you were saying and agree wholeheartedly. I was just going for the easy point, as usual.

As to whether to tell or not, that depends on your goals for the service:

1) Do it 'cause you're supposed to and you like it and don't care if anyone else shows up?

2) Do it for the diehards who will show up no matter what?

3) Do it for as many people as possible, because we never know when the Spirit will move someone?

If the answer is #1 or #2, you don't tell. If it's #3, you do.

MR said...

Well some of those people just plain might not be doing it because of "Digger" the toenail fungus creature from the commercials. [sic] I seen it lookin' at television. [/sic]

or maybe they're ticklish or something.

#3, I think. You never know when they're going to have that beam of light epiphany that they should get the band back together.