He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him… When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “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 13:4b,5,12-17)
At the end of the meal Jesus set his robe aside, took water and a towel, and washed the disciples’ feet. They didn’t understand at first. Jesus was teaching them that he was the Servant King and he was modelling for the disciples the way they should act towards each other and those outside the faith.
We are called to model Christ.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”John 20:21-23
Here are three ways we can model Christ: initiative, involved, invested.
1. We must take the initiative to connect with other people, and not wait for them to come to us. Three examples: Poker, pantos, and parties.
A new vicar tried putting on lots of events at the church but the community didn’t come in. Then he found out that the pub across the road was always packed on Thursday night for the poker club, so he took off his dog collar and joined. They taught him to play and got to know him and eventually some of them came to church. Instead of inviting the community to come, he went to meet them on their terms. We’re called to be the uncomfortable ones.
Another minister joined the local theatre group and took part in the annual panto. Eventually the panto was staged in the church hall, and the whole community came and were exposed to the church.
When there is a work outing or a dinner, don’t stay home because it’s not what you like to do. Go and meet the people where they are.
2. We must get involved: Princess Diana and Mother Theresa both reached out to help the poor and disadvantaged, but there was an important difference. Princess Diana visited the slum but that night she slept in a hotel. Mother Theresa went to the slum but she slept in the slum – she became involved in their lives.
Don’t just go to the local school fete, although that’s a start, run a stall there or help to set up and clean up afterwards.
We need to go from me to us.
3. We must be invested: A local MP visited a food bank, but he came in his BMW and smart suit and went away after the tour. The local councillor lived on the estate and had a stake in the community.
We must go from they to we.
We are called to bridge the gap between God and the community. Don’t just talk about God, let God be incarnated in our lives.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Cor 9:22b-23)
[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk