The context for Andy Stanley’s preinauguration sermon was the scene in the last supper when Jesus, the person in power, washed his disciples feet as a response to their arguing about who among them was the greatest. As a Mennonite pastor, The Old Fool believes lessons are learned when a congregation follows Jesus literally and observes the customary foot washing service.
One of The Old Fool’s favorite stories is of an uninitiated visitor to the Mennonite mission in Miami, Florida. We were preparing to observe the foot washing service and I was reading John 13 as was customary. I heard a protest from the visitor saying “It was only a custom, only a custom.”
We continued with our preparation, and at an appropriate time one of the older members invited the visitor to wash feet with him. After having his feet washed, the elderly visitor shuffled with bare feet back to his seat. As he went he could be heard muttering, “it feels so good, it feels so good.” He was learning how good it feels to follow Jesus literally.
In his pre-inauguration sermon, Andy Stanley reminded the audience of the time the president had gone to Newtown and visited with each of the bereaved families alone in twenty separate rooms. Stanley knew the strain of one pastoral visit, but he had never made twenty such visits in such close sequence. Shortly afterward, the president faced the nation on TV and delivered a powerful speech. Though no feet were washed literally, Stanley concluded that a “Pastor-in-chief” was at work.
To follow him literally by washing each other’s feet is not exactly what Jesus meant by what he said. We may wash each other’s feet regularly and still miss entirely the truth taught by his act. Rather, Jesus exemplified the truth that powerful persons build community best through humble service to the most lowly. Peace comes through men and women of good will to all.