Monday, October 01, 2007

not my feet

I mentioned this weekend about a group of people at the Vineyard who go downtown every Saturday and feed several hundred people lunch. It’s called The Good Sam Run. Two weeks ago during a routine lunch, our friends in the homeless community had arranged a surprise for the people who have been serving them for years. One of the people on the team journaled their experience:

“When we were through we packed up as usual. But then the team was asked to stop over across the street for a minute. As we walked over there, someone directed us to sit on the cement wall at Washington Park. There were the people we had just served. As we sat down, we noticed they each had a bowl and a cloth, and we thought ‘what’s going on?’

“They each began to read from a note in their hands. ‘Silver and gold have we none, but what we have we give to you.’ Yes, these were people that didn’t have silver and gold – these were the ‘poor and homeless’ and they had nothing. But ‘what we have we give to you’…what did they mean by that? Then they began to read some scriptures about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and how we should do the same. They were going to wash our feet! All of a sudden my mind began racing. I was used to serving them, but here they were, turning things upside down. They were going to do this for us! I never expected anything like this.

“A maze of emotions hit me. A cloud of bewilderment and humility fell on me. I was not used to this – I wanted to say ‘No, not my feet!’ but then they read the scripture where Peter tried to say that to Jesus. So I obediently took off my sandals. Standing in front of me was a tall, muscular black man with a gentle smile on his face. His gold tooth sparkled as he continued to smile while kneeling down at my feet. He gently lifted my ankle over the basin, dipped the cloth in the water, and lovingly washed my feet as if they were a precious gem he was handling. Then he poured some oil over them, looked at me and said ‘May you always walk with Jesus.’ At this point I could no longer hold back the tears.

“He stood up and leaned over and gave me a hug. Then he gave me a card that said ‘______ is praying for you today.’ He had forgotten to write in his name so I’d know who was praying for me. But I know I will never forget his face as long as I live. The love, joy and humility I felt will always remain with me. And I thank God that I was chosen to be one of those receiving such a precious gift, that ‘all they had, they gave to me.’”

Powerful, eh?

There are still a few churches that have made foot-washing part of their practices. It’s lost its meaning in our culture; centuries ago it was the job of the house-slave to do that for guests with dusty sandaled feet. And in modern “user-friendly” churches, that would be a practice that would freak everyone out. So we attempt to find the jobs that are the “lowest on the food chain” to do…and then do them for others. So if you’ve ever worked a summer at a car wash…or had the gig of cleaning the bathroom at your place of employment…you might understand what a shock that is to have someone offer that for free.

But one final note: once I was speaking to the volunteer leaders of our prayer team ministry and after I had prayed for them, they asked me to sit down and remove my shoes. I got very, very nervous and uncomfortable. Then they brought a basin out and washed my feet and poured oil over them. I can’t express how humbled I was by this. It made me speechless…and I wept on the way home. It brought our feelings I didn’t even know were below the surface. As out-of-place and awkward “foot-washing” is in our world, I had never experienced anything quite like that. And believe me, I’ve experienced a lot in my fifty-four years.

An act of humility on their part triggered a flood of humility in me. I felt unworthy but strangely loved at the same time. I really can’t explain it.

Can you imagine what the disciples felt when the King of the Universe washed theirs?

Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 New Living Translation)


  1. Dave, you are so loved and respected. I am sending you a cyber hug! :D

    By the way, I didn't want to embarrass the people I was sitting with on Sunday (9/30/07) but when you said many churches are weird, hypocritical, etc... (not an exact quote) I wanted to stand up and cheer in agreement. You GO, Dave! :]

  2. I guess the foot washing is just an example of what Jesus was doing. I guess the servant evangelism is just like that which is why I always liked the outreaches. Its been awhile but am doing one soon. It did get me to be more giving to people to help them out instead of ignoring their problems. So thanks!

    As far as the churches are hypocrites, I guess that is a two way street. I do not think any pastor or leader is immune to those comments including vineyard. As long as we realize we are not perfect and trying our best and turning it over to God (defects of charactor) I think we will be ok. God wants us to try and succeed like Jesus. Just get back up and try again, but realize what was the problem before, I think thats all God wants from us on service to him.

  3. I thought the foot washing story was really cool especially as we revisit our DNA. After all, over twenty years ago, when we got the idea to do our first servant evangelism car wash, it actually started as a prophetic picture during a time of intercessory prayer time as God was breaking our hearts for Cincinnati. We had already been doing a pretty good job of reaching the "poor" of the city with food runs, but God reminded us that there were other "poor" in our city--only their poverty didn't have anything to do with what was missing from their checking account. God told us to go find the poor in spirit and wash their feet. At first we were all nervous that he wanted us to open a free foot washing booth at Northgate mall. We were ready to do it, even though it seemed weird to those of us that were new to church and the bible when vision after vision developed further and showed us during the same prayer session that we could also serve Cincinnati by washing cars (the feet of this generation). I especially remember the image of Steve Sjogren as the Karate Kid: "Wax on wax off!"

    Now here we are full circle--still washing feet.


  4. I went on a retreat a few years back and we did a foot washing. I received a foot washing and also provided a foot washing to someone else. I can internalize why Jesus washed his disciples feet and can relate to the adoration Mary Magdaline had while washing Jesus' feet with her tears, hair and perfume. But when I experienced this personally I could not wait until it was over...I was undone. I would much rather hug someone, listen to them or buy them lunch.

    A pedicure is a different story....they can take all day!