Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Holy Thursday: Practice Makes Perfect!

“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10

 In all the great hero stories, it becomes clear who are the good and bad characters. So, the hero must do battle with the villains. Throughout John's gospel Jesus has been doing battle against evil and death. It has been a struggle; not the fake movie kind, but a life and death struggle against very real and powerful opponents. He has confronted sin and death in the surrounding world and in the resistance to his message by the religious leaders. Death's powers have come close to him, in the Lazarus story. We watched Jesus weep at his friend's tomb as he confronted death's power to inflict pain and loss. In today's gospel John (13:1-15) says that Jesus, "was fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power...." Then Jesus got up from the table with all that power available to him, and surprised his disciples as he continues to surprise us today. Jesus rises to wash his disciples' feet. This is not the way power is used in our world: nations dominate nations; one ethnic group purges its another; one religion proclaims its dominance over another; some parents by word and example, teach their children to succeed at any cost; businesses take over weaker ones. It does seem that when some nations, organisations, (religions and individuals) come to power, other groups suffer the consequences. Having power is not necessarily a bad thing and Jesus' life and today's gospel are examples of ways to use power to the benefit and for the good of others. His use of power is also an example to us.

As a musician I try to "practice" daily to maintain my flexibility and skill. Notice I have used the word "practice." It takes the perfectionist pressure off what I do, as I don't have to do it perfectly. What a relief for a type 'A' over achiever. I can be patient and tolerant when I let things slip or I don't feel a session went as well as I had hoped. I can say, "I am just a beginner with this piece of music and I will get it right eventually. Someday it will be easier and better, but right now I'll just "practice". Jesus asks his disciples to make 'foot washing' (humble service) their daily practice, because it will help them to deal with the worlds destructive approach to the use of power. As the three synoptic gospels had an account of the institution of the Eucharist, John does not have to repeat it. Instead, he narrates to his community and to us, THE WASHING OF THE FEET and in doing so, links it to the Eucharist. From now on, disciples cannot think of the Eucharist without Jesus' example and instruction about the service of others. Jesus tells his disciples, " should wash each another's feet. I have given you an example, so that you may copy what I have done to you."

The "practice" of foot washing reminds us that we are all recipients. In washing his disciples' feet, Jesus has acted as the lowly humble servant, giving his life in service for others. As Christians, we are who we are, because of Jesus' offering of himself. The foot washing reminds us that our baptism unites us to Jesus and his death. Our baptismal washing by water and words, is what puts us in touch with that life, "If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me." So as Christ's disciples, we too are called to lay down our lives in humble service of others and to "practice" the life we have received. We learn our "practice" from him. And of course, as with any other "practice," we probably won't get it perfect, but we can keep at it. Each time we attend the Eucharist, we remember and receive THE ONE who helps us put into practice 'foot washing' - serving the needs of others. We try to act towards the world as Jesus acted towards us. Being his faithful witnesses we serve others, even to the point of giving our lives. So we ask ourselves, 'Is is my "practice" perfect yet?' The honest answer is - No! That is why we return time and time again to the table of the Eucharist so that with his life at work in us, we can keep practicing in our daily lives what we have learned from Jesus at the Eucharist. May the Holy Spirit lead us to 'take up the towel and basin'.