By Rev. Lyle Beckman
Scripture: John 13: 3-5, 12-14 (NRSV) Jesus … took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. After he had washed their feet … he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”.
As a young pastor, I struggled with the Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing. Too many pairs of pantyhose, giggling teenagers and congregants who said “No!” when invited. My own insecurities as a young, gay (closeted) pastor shying away from such intimacy played a role in not fully experiencing the potential in this ritual. Over the years however, I have appreciated it more.
Each Maundy Thursday 75 people living on the streets of San Francisco are willing to trust a group of pastors and seminarians to lovingly wash their feet, dress their wounds and let them be anointed and dressed in new socks. Tears run down faces on both sides of the basin. Love and tenderness are shown. Healing and compassion are offered. Human contact connects us in community and to the divine presence in and around us.
Through Jesus’ example of washing feet, and in his life, death and resurrection, we are shown the depth of God’s love, and invited to share it wherever we can. In our congregations for sure, but in the world as well, which is crying out for words and actions of hope, acceptance, forgiveness, welcome and love. Will you wash their feet?
Bio: Rev. Lyle Beckman (he/him/his) served as the Night Minister for the San Francisco Night Ministry until his retirement in September, 2018. Night Ministry offers spiritual care, counseling and crisis intervention every night of the year from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, hosts two outdoor worship services and several feeding and educational programs. Beckman is currently serving as interim pastor of Christ Church, Lutheran, San Francisco.