I spent this past week in the Louisville area with a small number of other pastors and a man named Bob Russell. Bob was senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church for 40 years until he retired in 2008. Southeast is a megachurch (Kyle Idleman, author of Not A Fan is a pastor there now), one of the largest churches in the country – attendance around 22,000 – and when Bob retired, he determined he wanted to spend his remaining years mentoring other pastors.
It was one of the most wonderful weeks I’ve had in ministry, largely because Bob (along with another pastor named Ben and some other wonderful people) spent the week serving the nine of us pastors and caring for us in grand fashion. They taught us, they mentored us, they ate meals with us (one of which was Ruth’s Chris Steak house, surely the most expensive meal out I’ve ever eaten – I got the $53 Cowboy Ribeye, and I didn’t leave hungry), and they paid for it all, including of course, our stay at the beautiful Country Lake Christian retreat center. One day they took us bowling and after we bowled our first game, Bob said that they were going to give us a dollar for every pin we did better in the second game. (I racked up a whopping 90 in my first game, and money-motivated, hit 129 to follow. Yep, $39 to line my wallet.)
I came back refreshed and inspired, ready for the next season of ministry…and with a few new Facebook friends. What a blessing. And then I read John 13 today…
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:12-17 (ESV)
It’s interesting, the denomination known as the Church of God (among others) considers foot-washing an ordinance like communion. It’s an interesting point, and one they argue strongly on their website. However, we never see another instance of it in the New Testament, so maybe, maybe not. After all, Jesus spoke figuratively in other places. Either way, surely we can all agree that there is a greater truth here than a new ritual. Even if the Lord had a new ordinance in mind, He was really getting at something else.
He was telling us to serve one another.
And how we all need this from one another. I know I needed it this past week, but of course, I’m not alone. Jesus knew we would be worn out from seeking to serve and honor Him, and so He knew we would occasionally need our feet washed.
And so, one night, surely with the horrific cross in the forefront of His mind, He donned a towel and didn’t think of Himself, but thought of others.
And then He told us to do the same.
For tomorrow, Thursday, October 22nd: John 14