A number of years ago, experts predicted, correctly, that our country was moving more and more into a service economy. More and more of the jobs that would be created would be “service jobs.”
This news was received with great disdain. After all, service jobs tend to be labor-intensive and low-paying — not exactly the jobs we had in mind as we pass the world to the next generation. When we see our heroes making millions, how can we possibly be happy with minimum wage? How can we live the American dream doing menial labor? Who wants to be a servant?
It was in a small upstairs room — nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus and his twelve disciples had gathered for what would be the last supper. After the meal, he silently rose and moved to the corner of the room.
Jesus has been preaching and teaching for three years. Now, it is down to one final night. He still has one great lesson to teach. He decides that only by showing can he get the point across.
Taking the pitcher, he pours the water into the basin. He kneels with the basin and sponge and begins to wash their feet. He gently towels them dry. It didn’t seem right to the disciples that night, and it still doesn’t seem right to us today.
We know that the very hands that were washing feet that night would be pierced on the cross the next day. And when we look around the room at the disciples gathered there, we wonder: Were they deserving of having their feet washed? Are we?
We object because we know they don’t deserve it. Or do we object because we don’t want to do the same? We want to be served. Maybe we object because we know people who are like the disciples, and they certainly don’t deserve to be served.
We know them. The fair-weather friends. The promise breakers. People who aren’t there when you need them. Maybe they don’t leave you alone at the cross, but maybe they left you alone with the bills. Or alone with your question. Or alone with your illness. Maybe you were left at the altar, or out in the cold or holding the bag.
Maybe they made vows to love you forever only to break them. Maybe they have abandoned you at a time you needed them most. Maybe these are the ones God calls us to serve, and we wonder how we can possibly do that.
Logic tells us this is the time to put up our fists. Jesus tells us to fill up the basin. Logic screams in or ear to lash out and bloody a nose. Jesus whispers, “Wash his feet.” Logic tells us she doesn’t deserve to be served. Jesus says, “You’re right, but you don’t, either.”
There are so many needs. There are so many who desperately long for you to reach out, to care enough to spend not some of your money, but some of yourself by being willing to kneel and take the basin and wash the feet.
This is what Jesus calls us to do. To love as he loved. To serve as he served. To wash one another’s feet. To listen when the burdens are too much. To care when the struggles are too great. Too alleviate the suffering wherever we can. To know that we are called to be servants.
The Rev. David Wise is pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.