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Pedilavium

March 19, 2008

isn’t that a great word? the reality is, that word makes me sound smarter than i really am. that is just a fancy word for the ritual or ceremony of feet washing. some call it foot washing, but that just does not make sense. why would you just wash one foot? this is something that was practiced in the early church, as instructed by jesus the night of the last supper. a small number of christian believers continue to practice the washing of the saints’ feet on a regular basis. it is usually associated with the observance of communion, or the lord’s supper. the church in which i have the privilege to serve will observe this event tomorrow night (thursday). i have mixed feelings about this. my hesitancy does not come from the practice itself. i grew up in a denomination that practices feet washing and considers it an ordinance alongside baptism and communion. in fact, i sometimes miss the practice of feet washing. it is a very powerful moment when another man kneels before you to perform this lowliest of tasks. it is perhaps more powerful when you humble yourself and kneel before another man and wash his feet, following the example of our savior. it is an moment that bonds two men in a way that is difficult to ascribe words to. and that is where my mixed feelings come in. i have never been in a feet washing where men and women participated together. that is our plan, and i do not know if i am comfortable with that. i do know that as an elder and church leader, i am not comfortable washing the feet of a woman other than my wife. when i spoke with my wife about this, she seemed to understand. we have a few particularly close friends with whom our relationship is more like family. she seemed to think she might be comfortable with these men (in addition to me), but no one else. in the church tradition in which i was raised, we would take communion and then the men would dismiss to one room and the ladies would dismiss to another. the next few minutes were a time of closeness and bonding — based on each man’s humble act — that is inappropriate for a man and woman who are neither related nor married to each other should feel toward each other. the response will be that it is unlikely people will feel that bond or closeness. my question then becomes, if the participants do not feel bonded by the humble act performed, have we missed a major point of the exercise?

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