Cans of Veggies and Wet Feet

 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
John 13:1-9

I had a bizarre dream last night.

I was being discharged from the hospital.  My room was filled with plastic bags of canned vegetables (why? who can even know) that I had to take to the car.  However, after lugging them down the stairs (in my hospital gown), I found that my car had been moved.  My friend offered to drive me around to look for the car, but in the process she kept not listening to my directions, turning the wrong way, and running into walls.  I couldn’t find my car, and my arms ached from holding up the heavy bags.  I was anxious to the point of frenzy, still woozy from my illness, and unwilling to surrender my burdens. 

And then I woke up to the sound of my one year old crying.  Now I am no dream analyst, but I can pretty much tell from this dream that I have some control issues.  And some feeling-out-of-control issues.  Starting my morning in this manner left me feeling a bit jittery, and like there was something I NEEDED to do, a small alarm ringing in the back of my mind.

And then today, I sat down to meditate on Jesus washing Peter’s feet.  As I sat in the silence and imagined that moment, I began to have some of the same reactions as Peter.

But wait- Jesus, I serve YOU, you don’t serve me!  Yes.  This sounds good.  And this is a principle I adopt more often than not when it comes to life as a disciple of Jesus.  But it is totally backwards.  When I view myself as a servant of God, and don’t first allow Jesus to minister to me, I am operating on human terms.  My service to God is earning me favor.  It keeps me feeling secure, righteous, and in control.

Laying down all my gold stars, all my good works, all my efforts, and allowing Christ to cleanse me is a powerful act of surrender.  It is saying that I can’t keep things going smoothly on my own.  There are too many cans of vegetables (I know- it’s bizarre- but let’s roll with the metaphor) and the car keeps moving.  I will never finish the task on my own.  And I am not meant to.  Because if it were possible for me to be good enough on my own, then Jesus sacrifice for me would be a cosmic waste of time.  And oh how I am in need of that sacrifice.  I need the redemption.  I need to be forced to admit that I can’t do it all by myself.  I need to be willing to be humble enough to allow God to minister to my soul- my heart, my needs.

The martyr on the Cross should always remain Christ.  When I look at my life and realize that that I am casting myself in the role of suffering servant, it’s time for a reality check.  For if I can’t humble myself and allow Christ to wash my feet, how can I possibly accept the enormity of his sacrifice for me? If I am unwilling to first be ministered to by Christ, then those who see my efforts will never see God shining through them, only the increasingly strident acts of a pretty good human.

If I keep trying to be good enough, responsible enough, DO enough to keep my life running smoothly, I will inevitably fail.  The truth is, we aren’t in control of our lives.  Sooner or later, something will happen that will prove to us beyond all doubt that WE are not in charge.  And when that happens, if all of our trust and valor is built upon our own resources, our defenses will crumble.  However, if we continually seek to submit to the tender ministrations of Christ, then we know the One who holds our future.  And we are able to stand in trust that God is sovereign, and that God is in control. Humility leads to trust, and trust leads to a deeper, truer life.

wash20feet

suffering

When is the last time you really suffered?  Have you ever?

photo 2As pathetic as this sounds, I suffered mightily trying to train for a 5K today.  At about 2.5 miles, I was done.  Walking.   My lungs were burning.  My calves were lead.  I was sucking air like a fish on a dock.  And to be perfectly honest, I was probably flapping and flailing in a similar manner as well.   It wasn’t fun. And yet, it’s something I chose to do. In fact, running (let’s be real here, JOGGING) is something I would even call a hobby.  Suffering, it is not.

achkaTwo weeks ago I got a Facebook message from my Haitian friend Achka.  He was telling me that he was completely out of money.  That he and his family had not eaten for three days.  Stop.  Think on that.  Three days.  When is the last time you skipped a single meal because you didn’t have any money for food, much less went days without eating.  This is suffering.  And yet, not voluntary.  I wired him money for food, and although giving the money may have made my family’s finances a it tighter, the reward was well worth the cost.  Once again, we didn’t suffer because of it.

The cross, that was suffering.  Physical agony.  Emotional anguish.  Torture beforehand.  Staring into the abyss.  And God chose it.  It was voluntary.  At any moment, Jesus could have miracle-d himself off of the cross and immediately been healed.  Comfortable.  Smug.  But, he didn’t.  For your sake.  For mine.  For the sake of grace and the redemption of mankind.

When is the last time you suffered, or even were uncomfortable for the sake of someone else?  How is this part of our Christian journey?  Are we called to suffer?  Are we called to sacrifice our comfort, for the sake of the Gospel?  To what level?  What do we, as Americans, do with this thought?

In My Image

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

John 18:28

Oftentimes, we lose the spirit of God in our efforts to follow God.  I think if the Pharisees had stepped back and looked at their behavior, they would have realized how ridiculous it seems to refuse to enter the Roman palace when calling upon the governor to kill a man.  Yet how many times do our actions belie our stated intentions?

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

John 18:40

barabbus

How often do we try to make God into our image?  Bad things happen when we do.

It was the religious elite that was the driving force behind Jesus’ trial.  They were the ones who could not accept Jesus as he was, who refused to hear the Gospel message.  Why?  Because it didn’t conform to what they were looking for in the Messiah.  They had read the prophecies, and had deduced that the coming King would be a political one.  One that delivered the Jews from Roman rule, one that brought glory and honor and power to the nation of Israel.

The kingdom Jesus came speaking about was not an earthly one, there was no glamour or prestige incorporated in serving this kingdom.  Jesus didn’t speak of politics, or hand out gold stars to those who broke their backs trying to keep the law.  Instead, he forgave adulterers.  His disciples ignored laws on hand washing.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath, with no respect for propriety.  He did not come to enforce the social mores of the day, but instead set forth a whole new series of ideals.  For the Pharisees, who had spent their entire lives adhering to the version of righteousness taught to them, this was a hard pill to swallow.  And to be perfectly honest, as a rule follower myself, I can understand the sentiment.  I don’t think that the Pharisees were evil.  They had spent their entire lives trying to live up to an impossible standard, to fulfill a law designed to be impossible to adhere to.  And now, to be told that their set of values should be turned on its head.  Mercy over justice.  Love over the letter of the law.  To a person raised in the midst of hard truth and hard consequences, this must have seemed preposterous.

It was much easier to call for the release of Barabbas, a person fighting the same battle you are rooting for.  Barabbas had taken part in an uprising, he was trying to overthrow the Roman government.  He was trying to fulfill the role of the Messiah the Jews were looking for.  An earthly king, not a king of heaven.

What do you expect from God?  A comfortable life?  Healthy children?  A job that brings you fulfillment?  These are all good things.  Godly things even.  Yet none of these are promised to us in scripture.  I find myself happy to be a Christ follower as long as my life is unfolding according to my plans.  But when these plans veer off course, I’m angry.  Resentful.  In those moments, I wonder if I as well am calling for Barabbas over Jesus- my plans and dreams over the plan God has for my life…