(Ask the Matriarch will return next week)
This year, we are having a foot-washing for part of our Maundy Thursday service. We are asking the children to come and have their feet washed, as we think they may be the ones who will actually dare to do it. Most adults are too shy to expose their feet. Also, it gives the children some way to participate in the service.
There’s something different about Holy Week services, at least in my tradition. Most of the time we are pretty wordy. We are people of the Word, after all. But Holy Week is different, more holistic. During Holy Week there are words, but not just words: there are sights and sounds and smells and movements. There is the sight of the altar being stripped, and the experience of foot washing. There is the loud sound of the tomb closing on Good Friday, and there are the flickering candles as each one is snuffed out. There are pilgrimages, too: as people walk the way of the Cross.
I remember one Friday walking the Stations of the Cross not in a sanctuary, but out on the streets of an inner city neighborhood. We stopped at different places that offered hope to hurting people, and remembered what Jesus bore on his way to the cross. We stopped at a Black Pentecostal church and at a homeless shelter and at a food shelf. We finished out with soup at a Catholic church that ministered to immigrants. We were cold by then, even though it was April.
Here also is a poem I found in Imaging the Word, Vol. 3
I wouldn’t take the bread and wine if I didn’t wash feet.”
Old Regular Baptist
They kneel on the slanting floor
before feet white as roots,
humble as tree stumps.
Men before men
women before women
to soothe the sourness
bound in each other’s journeys.
Corns, calluses, bone knobs
all received and rinsed
given back clean
to Sunday shoes and hightops.
This is how to prepare for the Lord’s Supper,
singing and carrying a towel
and a basin of water,
praying while kids put soot
in their socks–almost as good
as nailing someone in the outhouse.
Jesus started it: He washed feet
after Magdalen dried His ankles
with her hair. “If I wash thee not,
thou hast no part with me.”
All servants, they bathe
flesh warped to its balance….
Lord of the bucket in the well.
-George Ella Lyon