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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

"I'd get rid of the foot-washing bit...."

Now, wait a minute, bear him out -- this isn't the usual, our parish makes a joke of this, washing hundreds/washing hands/thinking girls qualify as viri/making up our own rituals.

It has do do with a fuller understanding of the Christ, of God -- of not making Him into Buddy Jesus, or the Make a Wish Foundation, or a kind of cosmic department store.

MadPriest (I'm going to have to make him a regular read,) on how crammed full of incident and symbolism the next few days are, and the flip-side of Jesus as Suffering Servant:
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday which, liturgically, is one of the most cluttered days of the Church year. In just one service we remember Jesus washing his disciples feet, the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion, Christ in the Garden and the Betrayal. Too much, really.

I'd get rid of the foot-washing bit. The symbolism is lost on me. The congregation pay my wages and tell me what to do, not vice versa. But they seem to enjoy it. If pressed they would probably say that I represented Jesus being their servant, and don't we all just love that idea. Certainly, it's the way we treat him most of the time. We bombard him with prayer requests for ourselves. We eat him every Sunday to give us spiritual nourishment and "recharge our batteries" for the week ahead. We look to him to save and help us. And, after all that, we expect him to get down on his knees and wash our feet once a year.

.... Tonight we will be contemplating another Holy Week event - the anointing of the head of Jesus by an unknown woman at the house of Simon the leper....

There is one thing that leaps out of the text and grabs me which is further highlighted by tomorrow's commemorations.

Jesus is not just the servant. He is also the one that is to be served.

And that, we are not so keen on.

When we think about images such as the vine, too often we see ourselves as the branches sucking the sap out of the trunk, that is Jesus Christ. But the vine image is not about dependence so much as connectedness. That other image of the body with its limbs is a better metaphor.

Every part of the body needs every other part of the body. No one part serves all the rest without being served in return. Without this mutual dependency the body dies, the vine produces no fruit and withers.

So, tomorrow night, enjoy the divine foot massage but on Friday, don't forget to help him carry his cross.
Really excellent.

(Only one tiny criticism, the Vine and Branches can illustrate exactly the same sort of interconnectedness, if we remember photosynthesis from 6th grade science.)

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