Taking a Bath in Church, for Jesus

Ah, Maundy Thursday; the day during Holy Week when I’m supposed to be moved by someone having their feet publicly washed in a church.

If you read the history, you’ll see how I’m sure this was a significant thing during Jesus’ time, but in our modern non-dusty, non-sandal wearing environment (where a polite house-guest is expected to wipe their damn feet outside your house) this is one practice that might need to be left to history.

Of course there will be those saying we need to keep this practice, because it shows humility, etc., but why this one practice in particular? Jesus wasn’t washing feet because there was something specific about feet, or washing things, it was because he was showing humility. The washing of a guest’s feet was done by slaves or by the guest themselves (I imagine if one didn’t own a slave), and by doing it himself, Jesus was showing how to serve.

Couldn’t there be another way we could show humility and service today, in the modern, non-dusty world?

How about, instead of a priest washing someone’s feet, we show service by the priest doing something else that’s viewed as a “service” in today’s society — how about the priest serving everyone at a group meal, kinda like the Eucharist, but more like a potluck?

Imagine the priest (and perhaps other altar personnel) going around, filling people’s drinks, asking if anyone wants desert — wouldn’t that be a show of service? We look down upon waitstaff today in almost the same way we looked down upon servants in yesteryear — why else would everyone agree that they’re not as deserving as the rest of us when it comes to wages?

So, until we start doing that, I’m going to go to my Maundy Thursday service, and sit in a pew with 95% of the rest of the congregation while two or three individuals go and take off their shoes in front of a priest and a basin of water.

… and I will continue to wonder why we put so much effort and attention into symbolic shows of service, and not near enough into real-life ones.