Friday, April 14, 2006

A disciple's tale

I wrote this story a couple of years ago, in several parts. I put them together here, for the close of Holy Week.

This disciple may soon have some new adventures.

Who will wash these feet?

Feeling pissy, Satan asks, "For heaven's sake. If you're God, how can you demean yourself with their smelly, stinky feet ?"

Jesus looks at him with pity, then says, "Humility fosters love, both from the giver and the recipient."

"Oh, fine." Satan says. "Just continue with this 'humble servant' bit. See where it gets you."

"You will see," replies Jesus. He sighs. "Most of the time, my disciples don't get it, either."

It had been a long week. Jesus came riding into the city as an honored prophet and many things happened. Many accepted Jesus as Lord and some continued their disbelief. Jesus had been saying some puzzling things that we did not understand, but tonight, we would relax and have this supper together.

It is the time of the Passover. As it is written in the Book of Genesis, "This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance."

It is the custom to bathe before coming to a banquet; therefore, we are clean except for our feet, which get very dirty on the streets and roads. Usually, a servant will bring water to wash the guests' feet before the banquet.

We came in, we disciples, and found our accustomed seats. We said prayers and sang songs just as we do every time we come together at the Lord's Table. Nothing seemed different tonight than any other night, except that Judas was gone, and except that tonight, there was no one to bring water to wash our feet, and no one volunteered. I thought about it, but didn't want to appear lower than my actual station, for I was a disciple, not a servant.

We proceeded with the meal. I was careful to keep my dirty feet out of sight. They discomforted me. I saw Jesus get up and wrap a towel around his waist.

I remember...

He started to wash his disciples' feet. I drew back in embarrassment. I heard Peter protest, then acquiesce. I hang back in confusion, hoping to avoid notice.

"Why then, Lord, are you now kneeling in front of me with a basin, a pitcher and a towel, like a servant? Are you going to wash my feet, too?"

"No, I can't allow that. I can't let you be like a servant to me. "

I was shocked at the thought of it.

My feet were dirty. They were caked with dirt, for I had been on the road this day. My toenails were thick and uneven. The nails and cuticles of my toes were grimy, and my feet covered in thick calluses and dry, cracked, peeling skin. And dirt.

Lord, I thought, I can't let you look upon these feet, much less touch them. You were not meant for this.

These ugly feet were no fit offering to the Lord. I kept them tucked back, hidden from his sight.

Kneeling, Jesus looked up at me.

I implored, "Ask something else of me, Lord, and I will give it, I will do it."

I saw the love in his eyes; he was filled with love for me, and I was smitten in return.

I knew he understood my embarrassment, my pride that made me want to hide these unattractive members from his sight. But he already knew. He had seen -- there was nothing of me or in me he hadn't seen.

He looked at me through those loving eyes, and I began to understand. Like Peter, now I wanted to be washed all over. I wanted whatever would make me more worthy. But this is what he required tonight.

Hesitantly, I pulled my feet from their hiding place.

The water sparkled as he poured it over my feet. I heard a soft murmuring and splashing of water.

Layer by the layer, he washed the grime away. The water was soothing, relaxing. I felt the blood moving through my feet, my hands, my heart. I floated into this renewal.

Jesus' hands were healing. He holds my feet as he carefully dries them with the towel. My feet are clean and warm.

Who am I that my Lord should tend to me as a servant?

No one. It is his love, his love only, that makes me worthy.

I am filled with a deep peace.

Thank you Lord, for this gift.

This is what happened with the Lord on the night of Passover. He gave us a mandate to love one another, to be servants to each other. He gave us the example of humble service that we are to follow.

What I received from the Lord, I also hand on to you. Let me look upon you with Christ's eyes, see you with Christ's love, treat you with Christ's humility. Allow me now to follow Christ's example of servanthood. Please allow me to wash your feet.

We will be blessed if we do these things for each other.

Saturday morning

Where is my God?

How can it be that my Lord is dead? I thought this cruel execution would be stopped. I prayed for it to be stopped. Yet my Lord is dead.

My God, have you forsaken me?

I am desolate with grief.

The people on the streets say, "Where is your Lord now?" and I run.

I run like a dog who has lost its master, loping this way then that, pawing the ground, panting with thirst.

I stop in a grove of olives. I rend my shirt. I claw at my chest until I see drops of bright, red blood fall to the ground. Yet there is no atonement for what we have done.

My God, my God, have you left us? We have broken the covenant You made with us. Have you abandoned us?

The sunlight is dull and wan and there are no stars.

I cannot sleep. Oh God, grant me death, too. My face is stiff with shed tears that bring no comfort and still I cannot sleep.

I stumble back into the city, avoiding the soldiers and the mockers, and ask where they have taken my Lord. I find the tomb. I sit and lean against the stone wall.

Was it only two nights ago that we broke bread? You washed my feet. I look at them now and they are filthy and bloody.

My God, where have you gone?

I will wait here for whatever is to come. I lean against the cold stone, and at last, I sleep.

Saturday night, Sunday morning
He Lives

Listen to my story:

I slept against the hard stone of the tomb of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who had been crucified and buried. A couple of guards came by and poked at me, but I refused to move. I was too exhausted and too grieved to care. If they took my life, so much the better. I no longer needed it.

I went back to sleep.

"Disciple, wake up. Arise," came a voice.

I floated upward to consciousness from a very deep sleep.

"Awake. Your Lord needs you."

A creature stood before me, luminous in the dark. It was beautiful, the creature, but very strange. Almost like a man, but not. I had trouble seeing it properly. Its glow made it hard for me to focus my eyes on it.

The world was moving in odd ways.

"Don't go fainting on me. You have work to do."

The creature touched the stone in front of the tomb. It rumbled away from the entrance to the cave.

Listen. I saw the risen Lord.

He walked toward me. He was beautiful, so beautiful. He glowed with a luminosity much greater than that of the creature beside me.

It was Him.

I could see the empty funeral linens behind Him.

He was dressed in white. He moved with a fluid grace. I don't know how this could be, but it was.

It was the risen Lord, shining in glory. Listen to the Good News.

I remembered what He had said about the three days that I hadn't understand.

With one scarred hand, He touched my forehead. Peace came over me.

"Tell the others when they come. Disciple, you will make disciples. You will baptize in my name. Tell them your story."

I could only say, yes. I knelt. He put His hand on the top of my head for a moment, then walked past me in radiance.

My clothes were now a beautiful white. There was no wound on my chest. My feet were clean and my skin was as fine as a child's.

He has done many miraculous things. But the most miraculous is that He lives. He will never die again.

"Wait here for the others," said the creature who had awakened me. He could only have been an angel.

I sat on top of the stone, waiting and examining my new clothes and my new skin, when the Roman guards came back. I enjoyed their confusion over the open tomb.

"Are you looking for Jesus of Nazareth?" I asked in my best and most holy of voices. I chortled at the guards' confusion and alarm.

They looked into the cave and then looked at me in my new appearance with their mouths open, not recognizing the disciple they had tried to roust a little earlier.

"He is not here. He is gone. An angel came and moved the stone with one finger. Now He is risen and He is gone. He is the Lord God. " I was laughing, holding my sides. I realized: this is joy, come back into the world.

"He came to live among us. He died, but He rose again. He will never forsake us." I lifted my arms. "Share my joy!"

Share the Good News! Christ is resurrected. He will lead us. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Follow Him. He reigns in mercy and love.

The guards backed away and ran up the path from the tomb.

I sat rocking myself, singing, praying and praising and laughing through the night. I was overcome with joy. I waited until I saw Mary Magdalene on the path, then I jumped down from the stone, landing lightly on my feet, ready to tell her the Good News.

Listen, all of you, to my testimony and we shall make disciples of many, for Jesus Christ is alive and He brings life in abundance, life everlasting, and the peace that is beyond all understanding.

His goodness and mercy will be with us forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Marvelous.