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. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
I have rarely heard the church described simply as a place where we are intimate with one another. (Traditionally, Lutherans might gasp at the notion!)
I have heard the words "family of faith", "body of Christ", "faith fellowship". But today, and tonight let's think about what it takes to touch and be touched in humble tenderness--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
These days we are keenly aware of boundary issues and the capacity for humans to abuse moments of intimacy. For some, the idea of kneeling before another human being, loving them and washing their feet generates feelings of vulnerability, subservience, feelings that diminish one's value.
Jesus says, "Get over it -- this is what I do for you, and it is what I tell you to do for each other." Jesus says we should do as he has done.
What do you say about that? What do you do about that? How do you do what he is telling you to do?
Jesus is not telling us to go through the motions of doing the "right" thing. He is modeling a quality of relationship that goes deep.
Christian relationships a la Jesus are intimate relationships connected with compassion and oneness. I'm not talking about physical sexual intimacy (something all spiritual leaders need to remember).
I'm talking about the relationship of the heart and soul. I'm talking about what occurs in human experience when the desire and willingness to love and serve someone else transcends any concern for the past or future. I'm talking about the moment when that love and service expands from deep within the soul and eclipses the ego. "I" die and melt into the moment. My loving willingness to do ANYTHING for the other's good bursts the confining boundaries of "my" life and pours forth freely for the sake of the other.
Moments like that don't make much sense if I try to rationalize them. They make no sense if I attempt to measure them or strategize them or make some analysis of how they will benefit me or further my own interests.
On his last evening of human intimacy, the night we remember this Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus melted into loving relationship with humanity. He knelt before us, washed our feet as a servant, and poured his deepest love into our hearts. He did this so that forevermore we would know what we are to do, why we must do it and how we are to do it.