A member of the congregation I serve died this week. It was fitting. The shadows of death linger about us this week. Like Peter, warming his hands by the blazing fire, trying to hide and catch glimpses of what Jesus suffered, I stood at the edge of the Holy Week shadows, watching for this central drama of mortality to unfold.
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.