Last year I introduced the members of my local church to foot washing on Maundy Thursday. Only eight or ten of gathered that evening. But as Holy Week approached this year, my pastor in charge asked if I would lead the service again.
So on Thursday night, the congregation met for the fourth night of Bible study during Holy Week. We discussed why Jesus might have done this, how Judas misunderstood, and if we see leaders today who are willing to humble themselves in a similar fashion.
Then I knelt to wash Pastor Kaunda’s feet and he knelt to wash mine. The congregation of nearly 20 sang as each person came forward to have their feet washed. I washed the feet of women who have served me countless meals, cooking over an open fire and acrid smoke. I washed the feet of a young man who has spent hours around my dining room table translating and editing devotions and articles. I washed the feet of a woman with whom I’m not completely reconciled. I washed the feet of a small child. I saw Kaunda wash the feet of the guard who patrols my yard each night to keep our family safe.
And I washed Wilson’s feet. Wilson. He has given his life these past 18 months to serve our family. He washes our clothes so that I don’t get blistered hands. He cleans our home so that we can give time and energy to ministry. He advises us on matters big and small. He changes flat tires, totes water, fixes stopped up sinks, notices when lights are not turned on and when doors are not locked. He knows our public reputation and our private flaws. He witnesses the intimacy of our family – both tender and not so tender.
As I washed his feet it felt so inadequate, so late in coming.
As a pastor, as a pastor in Malawi, there is respect and protocol attached to the position regardless of one’s personal merits or worth. I cannot carry a bag or Bible more than three steps from my car before someone has taken it to carry it to the church or into the house. I am served first and better – rice rather than nsima, a fork rather than a spoon, or a spoon rather than my hands.
So each person around the circle on Thursday night has served me in one – or a million and one ways. To kneel at their feet was the greatest privilege. Yet it felt like so little in comparison to all that has been done for me.