'[Jesus] emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave'. Philippians 2:7
As I prayed about this evening’s sermon I felt the Lord ask me “what is the weirdest job you’ve done?” and so I wonder “what is the weirdest job you’ve ever done?” I’ve had a range of weird and wonderful jobs but by far the weirdest was packing squid in a fish factory. Picture the scene… The squid arrived in big m3/cubit yard frozen blocks from deep sea fishing boats and they were defrosted over night. We then spent all day packing them neatly into small trays to be frozen again. It was grim work because we had to process tonnes of fish every day and it was mid-summer in southern New Jersey which meant it was hot. The hot weather gave the squid a certain “perfume”. The really grim bit was the ink. Tonnes of squid seem to produce tonnes and tonnes of squid ink. At the end of each day we would be covered in the black oily ink. We’d be deeply dirty and we’d stink!
In our Gospel passage Jesus does a weird job: he washes the disciples feet. This is the same Jesus who was greeted by Magi travelling half way around the world at his birth, the great miracle worker who turned water into wine, the honoured teacher who astonished the learned people with his wisdom; this Jesus takes the worst job and washes the disciples’ deeply dirty feet. Those feet that were dirty from walking the streets (which were also the sewers) were to be washed by Jesus – it was nothing less than scandalous. Of course, it got weirder with the script that accompanied the foot washing: Jesus says “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me”
I love Simon Peter. He’s every man and every woman. He askes the questions the others are too polite to ask but really want to know the answers to! Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Given all that Simon Peter has seen of Jesus (e.g. calming of the storm, the transfiguration) his outrage is understandable.' Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’' Jesus’ response is astounding: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me’ and Peter does a quick about face. I mean who wouldn’t want a share in the miracle worker, the honoured teacher, the Son of God and so he goes all in ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Bless him – who can blame him? Jesus calms him down and says ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.' The weirdness is not just the physical act of Jesus washing feet but what it means. As Jesus washes their feet from the deep dirt they are washed clean and have a share in him: their sinfulness replaced with his sinlessness.
Sisters and brothers, I confess that I stink. It’s not my preaching nor am I deeply dirty from squid ink. I stink because I’m deeply dirty from the sin of the world around me and my own sin which contributes to the sin of the world. And yet Jesus says to me: 'Let me cleanse your deep dirt awa. Let me share my cleanliness with you. Come share in me and my sinlessness'. And it’s not just me. All of us are deeply dirty from the sin of the world – and our own sin. And so Jesus says to each one of us 'Let me cleanse your deep dirt away. Let me share my cleanliness with you. Come share in me and my sinlessness'.Friends, this is the scandal of our faith: God’s holiness is ours at Christ’s expenses. The deep dirt of our sin washed away by Jesus.
This beautiful night, as our sisters and brothers have their feet washed as our representatives, watch and pray that the Lord washes you once more that you too may be cleansed from the deep dirt of sin. Let it be a sign, even a seal of Christ’s power to wash away your deep dirt and to share his sinlessness with each one of us. And let us keep watch and pray on the holy night ahead. Amen. (From Fr Nick McKee, Director of Vocations)