Dave Brisbin | 4.2.17
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, the image at John’s last supper of Jesus stripping his garments, tying a towel around his hips and moving from friend to friend at table, washing feet gives us another Lenten principle in preparation for new life. It is extremely difficult for us as modern Westerner to appreciate just how mind blowingly outrageous and offensive Jesus’ actions would have been to his friends. There is no relevant analogy for us to bring home the shock of a revered teacher, rabbi, a spiritual master and healer doing what even Jewish slaves were not obligated to do–what was relegated to Gentile slaves. It was dirty, impure, and humiliating work, underscored by Peter’s initial refusal to allow Jesus to wash him. 

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Something this profound either bounces off our cultural force fields and doesn’t penetrate at all or we quickly moralize it to say that God wants us to be humble and in service to each other, which also misses the central point: that Jesus sees himself as the servant of everyone and anyone in his path, that he exists to serve and pour out everything he has, and as he and the Father are one, that our Father in heaven is a servant as well. The outrage we may feel if the creator of heaven and earth were to bow to wash our feet begins to welcome us to Peter’s world. But as Jesus told him: if we can’t accept who our God really is, we can’t have any part of him and remain unprepared for the new life on the other side of that acceptance.

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