My friend Joe got me thinking about footwashing today. It is, after all, Maundy Thursday – the one day out of all the days in the liturgical calendar when churches of every kind take up this ritual. It’s so important to Christians that even parachurch groups and faith-based community organizations have incorporated this practice into their annual calendars. And this makes me wonder… How did we get here?
Like most churchy things, when I take time to stop to consider the implications, one question sparks another and another. So many questions…
- Why do we do footwashing rituals?
- Is this a symbolic ritual, pointing to some alternative reality? If so, which reality? Or better: Whose reality?
- Is this a practice which helps us draw closer to the life of Christ? If so, how?
- Does it help us become more Christlike?
- What value is there in reenacting this biblical moment once a year at an often poorly attended mid-week evening service?
- Does the ritual have meaning in our 21st century context? Should it?
- What meaning do we want it to have? How do we create that meaning?
- And if it doesn’t, what does that mean? Can churchly rites and rituals change? Should they?
- If this particular ritual needs to change, then what is the 21st century equivalent to footwashing?
Every one of these questions could be a blogpost (or book) unto itself. And some small (or large) part of me wants to theologically dissect each one. Actually, I want to wrestle each question to the ground until the RIGHT answers can be surrendered. But it is Holy Week. And we’re all busy. So for now maybe the questions are enough to keep me focused on why I’m doing this work in the first place.