Extravagant Servanthood

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

John 12:1-8 “So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  --John 13:14 On Maundy Thursday, some congregations follow Jesus’ example from his last night with his disciples and wash each other’s feet.   Some people find this whole foot washing thing to be awkward.  Perhaps it is having someone kneel before you and serve you that makes some uneasy. Perhaps it is allowing someone who you might not know well touch you.  Perhaps you just find feet icky.  But maybe that’s the point.  Serving others is not about making yourself feel good.  It is about showing your care and compassion for another person. It is about loving in the way that Jesus loved – by humbling himself and taking on the form of a servant, even to the point of giving his life on a cross, as Paul writes to the Philippians (2:6-8). In John 12, Mary demonstrates that she already understands what Jesus will have to teach his other disciples in John 13.   Mary already understands the need to be a loving servant and compassionate caregiver and she does it in an extravagant way. Mary gets what it means to be a disciple. Judas, clearly, does not. The picture John paints of the betrayer is one of selfishness and greed.  He is called a “thief” like the one who Jesus says breaks into the sheepfold to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).  While Mary spends a year’s salary to anoint Jesus, Judas sells Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  He twists Jesus’ teaching about loving the “least of these” to criticize one who loves extravagantly. Jesus teaches that the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor.  In contrast, Judas tries to  paint a picture that pits loving Jesus and loving the poor against one another.  As if loving one means not loving the other. It’s a false dichotomy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We love God BY loving our neighbors.  As we love our neighbors, we learn how to love God more deeply.   I have heard congregations try to pit caring for the gathered community of faith against caring for the world outside their doors, as if doing one somehow diminishes doing the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. We worship so that we might serve. We serve so that we might come to know more deeply the Servant who loves us all.  As our extravagant Lord gave his life for us, we, like his extravagant disciple, Mary, give our lives for the sake of others.   When we begin to understand that the walls of the church, like our very lives, are meant to be porous – so that God’s love for us and for the world might flow in and out – then the rich fragrance of God’s mercy, forgiveness, compassion and justice will fill both the house and the whole neighborhood. Peace, Bishop Mike. Thanks for reading.  Look for ways to wash some feet (that is, love God and your neighbor) this week!

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