When Jesus moves away from the table, strips down, and ties a towel around his waist (John 13:4), I don’t think he is thinking about how stinky James’s feet always are, or about the bunions that have been growing on Matthew’s foot as they made their way to Jerusalem. Rather, he is in the process of inviting the disciples into the most wonderful life imaginable—one in which love, intimacy, and humble service bring both deep delight and freedom from trivialities.
The congregation of pilled sweaters gathers. The least of them my brethren, their terrible feet unpeel from comfortable shoes. They come to be healed by my father through my father who kneels before them with a bowl a monk threw on a potter’s wheel near the rocks of the Dry Salvages. Among the fusty velvet pews, timelessness collides with time incarnate in human weakness, raw skin, yellow corns. Here, among us, there are so few strong among us, so many reeking needs, such fervent despair, I long to bare my baby teeth, to lunge at the wretched. God save us from those who wish to be saved in this suburban church, its reenactment intended to puncture time while the hollow chime of tennis balls from the next door courts rings with the sacrilege of a Sunday plough.
This week's reading tells us in clear, compelling words where the Christian life begins and ends, where the church finds its purpose. It’s not with condemnation; it’s with love. It’s a commandment from Christ. It’s a gift, and it is new. What an interesting collection of descriptors.