Title: Bodies Matter, part 1
Text: John 13:1-5
Date: April 1st, 2010 (Holy Thursday)
Place: ICE Detention Center, Cary (NC)
Author: Isaac Villegas
(Note: this sermon was part of a footwashing worship service that was held at a hidden Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center; our footwashing protest received some media coverage: “Protesters hold demonstration” and “Taking the Cross to the street“)
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 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 and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13:1-5)
Footwashing is about bodies. Jesus takes the feet of those who gathered with him, those lowliest members of our bodies. Jesus strips down to servant’s clothes, takes a basin and pitcher, and bowing down to the ground he takes each of their feet in his hands, pours water, and dries them. Jesus pours out his love for human beings with a pitcher, with this water.
For Jesus, bodies matter. He shows his love for us by washing feet, by taking our bodies into his hands. And he commands us to go and do likewise: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
That’s why we are here, gathered outside this detention center, witnessing to the love of Christ. God so loved the world… and that means everybody. We are gathered to proclaim God’s love, and to show that love through this worship service. The church, the body of Christ, is brought together through this intimate and holy act of footwashing, where God’s love flows with this water. Footwashing binds us together as the body of Christ. Footwashing is about bodies—about the way the love of Jesus makes us care for bodies.
This chair here will remain empty as a sign of all the bodies that the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have hidden from us, the bodies that law enforcement agents have torn from our communities and our families in the middle of the night, the bodies that they have ripped away from our churches. By refusing to let us wash the feet of the people hidden in their detention centers, the federal government has dismembered the body of Christ, they have torn apart the church, they have pierced and severed the body of Jesus.
May this service of holy footwashing be a sign of God’s love for those bodies who have been torn from us, leaving us wounded, with holes in our sides and in our hands, the dismembered body of Christ.
(I continued with part 2 of this sermon at our evening footwashing service: Bodies Matter, part 2)