Sixth Sunday of Easter/May 1, 2016
Washing feet is dirty work.
I think about that, sometimes, when I’m getting a pedicure. The salon that I frequent is owned and operated by a family of Vietnamese immigrants. Two women who are cousins, a brother, a niece. From time to time a mother and an aunt.
All customers are welcome – the teenaged girls getting ready for prom. The old man with swollen ankles. The middle-aged ladies enjoying their one indulgence.
Shoes are pulled off. Smelly sneakers and socks. Leather pumps. Delicate sandals. Feet dip into hot water, and the work begins.
It’s dirty work.
Most feet aren’t very pretty, either. Baby feet are – they’re beautiful, adorable. Kissable. But the average adult foot is, well, sort of weird looking at best. Toes tend to bend and curl with age, heels harden and crack, callouses form and nails discolor. Some feet are downright ugly.
I remember many years ago, when my mother came home from the hospital, helping her into the tub and settling her on her new tub seat. Washing her body was not a problem, but when I bent to take her feet, one by one, to soap and massage them, to rinse them with warm water, I felt hot tears trace down my cheeks.
Mother to child. Child to mother. Why does the simple act of washing feet feel so intimate?
The Gospel of John tells us that, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet …” (John 13:3-4).
It was dirty work. These twelve men had followed Jesus all around the countryside. They walked everywhere they went, sandals their only protection against hardened paths and the assault of rocks and briars. Their feet must have been filthy. Uncaring about the dirt, uncaring about the smell, caring only about his love for them, Jesus washed their feet.
And when he had finished, he told them, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
It’s dirty work.
Just a few verses later, Jesus tells his disciples, “Those who love me will keep my word” (John 14:23). Keep my word. Live as I have taught you to live. Let love guide every aspect of your life. Take the teachings of the Torah into you hearts so that they become a part of your very being, and practicing them becomes a part of your very nature. Keep my word.
Jesus called his disciples – and us – to love God and neighbor. If we love God, that love will compel us to follow Jesus’ teachings, to keep his word. Love, after all, is not a feeling – it is an action.
If you love me, keep my commandments. If you love me, serve one another. If you love me, wash dirty feet. If you love me, love one another – even the unlovable ones.
But Jesus does not stop with a commandment. He also offers an Advocate who will enable us to love well. He offers the Holy Spirit, through whom, by whom, in the power of whom, we will be able to love well, even to love beyond expectation.
And when we love well, when we love as Jesus commanded, when we keep Jesus’ word, then we will know the deep peace and intimacy of relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.
“Love me … my peace I leave with you” (John 14:23, 27). Not the world’s peace, but God’s shalom. “The kind of peace that walks on water, that stills the storm, and fills jars to the brim with the finest of wines. The kind of peace that brings sight to the blind, restores hearing to the deaf, and tells the lame to get up and go home. The kind of peace that comes to a tomb and renders it empty.”
This peace erases our fears and replaces them with comfort. This peace reminds us that the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit accompany us always. This peace comes to us in the darkest places, in the midst of washing smelly, dirty feet, and reminds us: do not be afraid.
This peace means that “there is no oxygen for fear to breathe. No room for fear to move. No water for fear to swim in. Because the peace of Jesus has soaked us to the bone and nothing can wring it out.”
No fear. Only peace, only love. Only the equipping through the Holy Spirit of each of us – each of us – to respond to Jesus’ call.
Love me. Keep my word.
It might be dirty work. But Jesus has given us the tools.
 David Lose, “Commands and Promises,” workingpreacher.org, 4/29/13
 Rick Morley, “a peace of marvel,” 4/26/13