This is the devotion I wrote for the Custer County Chief for its March 4, 2021 edition. Thanks to the Chief for publishing the devotions of pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Peter was stuck, confused, and perhaps a little angry. At least that’s how I read his response to what he saw as Jesus’ obscene behavior on the night before the Passover festival. When he sees Jesus get up from the table, remove his robes, wrap a towel around his waist, fill a basin with water, and then wash each of his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel around him, Peter can’t take it anymore: “No! You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).
Peter knew the systems of his society. Servants wash lords’ feet; lords do not wash servants’ feet. His culture, built on honor and shame, demanded this hierarchy. But here was Jesus casting all that aside like his robes.
Our culture is somewhat different, and yet, not so different. Think about it this way. We think it’s completely natural, even a beautiful and holy thing, for parents to wash their children, to bathe them, and to wipe their faces and noses. But when adult children wipe spittle or food from their parent’s face for the first time, the reversal can be disconcerting: the care-giver is becoming the care-receiver. The hierarchy, the natural ordering of roles, is suddenly upended. The systems that made life work in the past are no longer valid. We experience similar upheaval in our lives in other ways. In the pandemic, we’ve gone through something together. Perhaps, there’s some other transition happening in our lives. In multitudinous ways, today, we stand at a point between what was and what will be. That which shaped us, those practices that worked before, the systems we navigated with ease, may not be enough to meet the demands of our futures. We are sitting with Peter before Jesus, wrapped in a future becoming present. We can protest that the future beyond our transition should be like our past; yet, Jesus invites us into a future shaped by something new, by his self-giving grace. With Peter, we sit in the presence of the Lord, Jesus, who guides us always into the future becoming.