Reflection On Holy Thursday
By Dennis Hankins
April 1, 2010, A.D.
...He rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. (John 13:4, 5)
A service of washing feet?
I grew up in a Pentecostal church. We observed the Lord's supper accompanied by the washing of one another's feet. The women washed one another's feet and the men did likewise.
I vividly remember my first experience at washing someone's feet other than mine. Kneeling down before the feet of George I felt awkward and a little embarrassed. Well, if the truth be told, I was embarrassed. What's a teenager to do in such moments.
Frankly, I would not have chosen George's feet to wash. I preferred to wash the feet of someone else. Not that I had any knowledge of there being any better feet to wash. But George was sort of from a different side of the tracks, as they say. Since becoming a Christian, that is, since he had gotten saved, he faithfully attended Church services every time the doors opened.
His teeth needed help. Looking back, I suppose he needed jaw surgery. His face appeared to be smashed in a little bit. Probably due to improper growth of the jaw bones. His physical features most likely matched his growing up years.
But George became a Christian and joy came into his life. He could be emotional about it too. I think I was a little afraid about that. What if he took to shouting or something while I washed his feet? Silly thoughts I suppose, but I was young and new at this feet washing business.
However, the event deeply impressed me. It began with the Lord's Supper and ended with the washing of feet. And I remember thinking if I didn't wash George's feet, what did that say about me? Did I truly love my brother in Christ? Could I wash and wipe George's feet in a spirit of prayer?
Fast forward. When I began to preach, I preached a sermon called: The Foot Washing Service. With a homemade towel long enough to wrap around my waist, I preached from John 13, the gospel reading for Maundy Thursday. I preached that sermon more times than I can remember traveling as an Evangelist and then as a Pastor.
Many years ago in my Pentecostal days, I pastored Houlton Pentecostal Church in Houlton, Maine. During a particularly intense week of church board meetings, I decided to end our marathon week of meetings with me washing the board members feet.
No one objected, except Snuffy. He earned that nickname because he wore a very noticeably large nose. It looked very much like Snuffy in the newspaper cartoons. As I write this, I cannot remember his real name. Everyone called him Snuffy, or in my case, I called him Brother Snuffy.
Snuffy retired from the United States Post Office. He was kind, thoughtful, humorous, gentle and sincere. The phone at the parsonage rang in the late afternoon before the scheduled foot washing service.
"I don't think I will come tonight to the meeting and get my feet washed," said Snuffy.
"Oh, Snuffy," I responded. "I was so looking forward to washing your feet tonight. I hope you will reconsider and come." I kept insisting on my desire to wash Snuffy's feet.
Now your getting ahead of me. Your right. Snuffy came. I started at the other end, so Snuffy could get an idea what to expect.
Lastly, Snuffy's turn came. I bathed his feet with the water and prayer. Images of washing George's feet filled my mind that evening. Barely finishing wiping Snuffy's feet, and before I knew it, Snuffy was out of his seat. Taking me by the shoulders, he gently directed me to sit in his seat. Kneeling down, he began to untie my shoes and take my socks off. And then he washed and dried my feet.
These precious memories came rushing back into my mind tonight as I did Evening Prayer. The beginning of the Intercessions tonight says:
At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior entrusted to his Church the memorial of his death and resurrection, to be celebrated forever.
Jesus says, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."