‘If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash each other’s feet’. In the world of Jesus’ time, washing another person’s feet was not a glamourous task, it was not an important or honourable task, it was not a particularly special or unusual task. It was a job that needed doing, in a world of bare feet and sandals, feet would pick up the dirt and the grime of the world, and so they needed to be made clean. It was the job of a servant – necessary, mundane, sometimes pretty gross.
It is this job that Jesus uses to explain his own ministry, his own nature. This everyday, bottom-of-the-heap job of caring that Jesus chose to show his love, and to demonstrate how we should love each other. These days, in these strange, worrying times, I see a lot of people following this holy path. I see a lot of people carrying out the jobs that no one else really wants to do, a lot of people working hard day and night to get jobs done. A lot of people stepping into that space between the grime and danger of the world, and the comfort and safety of home.
The ITU nurse who wipes a gloved hand across a sweating brow, the bin man who continues to work among the dirt which now seems to cling with fear, the bus drivers smiling behind glass screens which do not, which cannot offer enough protection. The teachers who keep going into schools. The midwives who leave their own children to bring new life safely to another family. The funeral directors who say so much with a smile, where a hug cannot be given. The children who wave through the window as people pass lonely by. The families celebrating, commemorating, sorrowing by phone or through screens. And all of You. The servants who stay at home. The servants who step onto the front line.
The thing is, these ways of service have always been among us, I just think that we haven’t noticed them before, we haven’t honoured them. A ray of light in this dark situation is the way that we have come together, as we will tonight, to recognise the amazing things that we are all doing to love each other. In his own time, on this same night, Jesus took a towel, bent down, cast aside all pretentions of importance and status, and claimed the honour of a servant, he washed and scrubbed and cleansed feet, and souls. And now we must all carry on that work. In the famous words attributed to St Teresa of Avila, which resonate so strongly as we honour and acknowledge those who serve us, as Jesus instructed..
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
If you know these things, Jesus said, you are blessed if you do them.
And so, let us pray…
Let us pray in thanks for those who serve us. For those who serve in this parish, and across the country, across the world. For the hands that are Christ’s hands – washing the sick, driving the vans, delivering supplies. For the feet that are Christ’s feet, up and down hospital corridors, or in nighttime warehouses, on quiet streets. For the itchy feet which must stay inside. For the bodies that are Christ’s body, the bodies that are unprotected, for the bodies that stand still when they long to rush and help, and hold. Be with who serve, and protect and hold us at this time.
Lord, in your mercy.
Let us pray in hope for those who suffer. For those affected directly by the virus. For those who must watch as loved ones are in pain. For those who feel trapped, in body or soul. For those who are sick, those awaiting test results, those worried about finances and futures. Draw near to all who need your comfort and healing tonight.
Lord in your mercy
Let us pray for those who draw near to death. For those alone, for those who will die this night. For those who mourn, for those whose grief cuts deep. For those remembering loved ones, and happier times. May they know your comfort and peace.
Lord in your mercy
Lord we pray for all those who love you, all those who long for you, those who are yet to know you. We pray for those who in the dark of this night will doubt you, and those who will run to you. Wherever we are, may we know your presence and the depth of your love for us.