Title: Bodies Matter, part 2
Date: April 1, 2010 (Holy Thursday)
Texts: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Author: Isaac Villegas
This sermon is titled, “Bodies Matter, part 2,” because I preached “Bodies Matter, part 1” in Cary this morning. Some of us held a footwashing service at a detention center operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. I was there trying to wash the feet of the detainees, but they wouldn’t let me. Ministers have been refused access to prisoners at the detention centers throughout North Carolina.
But both sermons are about the same thing: that God cares for our bodies, no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, no matter where we’re from. Footwashing is about how our bodies matter to God, how God’s love flows over us and through us as the water washes over our feet.
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 wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (Jn. 13:3-5)
Later in the evening, after Jesus washed their feet, Jesus tells them 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” (v. 34).
That’s why in a few minutes you will walk up here and stand in line, waiting your turn to wash feet and have your feet washed. Footwashing is about how our bodies matter to God; this practice is how God’s love flows through us and into one another—through our hands, and with the water. As we all know, each foot is ultimately attached to a face, the face of someone we love, and someone who loves us—someone who God loves. When we wash the feet of one another, we open our selves to learn what it means to love each other’s lives.
That’s what love looks like. That’s what love feels like—a foot in your hand, a hand on your foot. Love isn’t simply some flighty emotion that comes and goes depending on your mood. Love happens when you pour water on someone’s foot and wash it and dry it and send them on their way to love and serve God.
We can easily wash our own feet—some of us probably already did before we came. But here we wash feet in order to give and receive God’s love. We learn how to let go of ourselves, to let someone take our bare feet—dirty and vulnerable. Being loved, receiving love, takes work. Pausing, waiting, letting go—all of that is hard work. Yet it’s holy work because with those hands, with this water, with that bowed body, comes the love of God—Christ’s love poured out for the world, poured out for you.
The mystery of God is the love that happens when you let someone take your dirty feet in their hands; the mystery of God is the love that happens when you take their feet in your hands. That’s what love feel like; that’s what God feels like.
God is a presence that passes through our lives, that envelopes our lives, with sustaining grace. Footwashing helps us see that grace take place before our eyes—in the way we let someone take our feet and care for them, to take and wash them. This grace comes to us through bodies that want to serve us, to care for us, and to prepare us to show that same grace to whoever we may encounter in our daily lives. Bodies matter to our faith.
…even the bodies of people who are our enemies. The scandalous part of the footwashing story in the Gospel is that Jesus washes the feet of Judas as well, the betrayer, the one who hands over Jesus’ body to be crucified.
Jesus washes the feet of his enemies. Jesus offers grace to the one who he knows will betray him. The love and grace of Jesus knows no boundaries. What would it mean for you to wash the feet of your enemies? What would it mean for their bodies to matter to you?