Being new to the Pentecostal domination I love to hear testimonies of brush arbors and six-week tent revivals. Fire running through the rafters. Goiters falling off. But foot washings? Not something I aspired to do. Who wants to wash someone’s dirty nasty feet? Thank God it is not required anymore. Or is it?
One Sunday, instructed by our Pastor the adult Sunday school teacher deviated from curriculum and taught on communion. Her first question—What does communion mean to you?—prompted various answers. Ranging from the humorous (grape juice in a cup and a stale cracker) to the serious (check point – a time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross).
How could grape juice signify the blood? How can a stale cracker do justice to the broken body of Jesus? Our finite minds failed to grasp the full concept of communion. A pondering hush settle over the sanctuary.
Until a frail feminine voice from in the back said, “You know… used to be when we took communion… afterward… we’d have a foot washing.”
What? A foot washing? What did washing feet have to do with taking communion?
The elderly sister in the back quoted John 13:14 “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” KJV
Pages quickly turned to John chapter thirteen. Led by our teacher, we we’re reminded that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet during the Passover supper. The first foot washing took place during the first communion. Although I knew both events occurred, I never realized they went hand-in-hand or hand-in-feet.
The class began to reminisce of foot washings in the past. And how the Holy Ghost moved in such services. Did I mention I love hearing about such things?
As the bell sounded indicating the end of Sunday school our teacher vowed to hold a communion/foot washing service during the adult class. All participating in the discussion agreed. We needed to have a foot washing sometime during the next few weeks.
But isn’t it great when God’s ideas supersede our own? Church services began. The choir sang. Before the pastor could begin his sermon people began to testify of the good things the Lord had done. The Holy Ghost gently breezed into the sanctuary. Conviction fell and the people, myself included, flooded the altars.
It’s impossible to describe the presence of the Lord. You either feel him or you don’t. His greatness surrounded me and I realized the smallness of myself in comparison. Dirty and unclean in my sinful nature, urgent for a cleansing, burdened for a foot washing, I prayed. The Holy Ghost whispered a vision of my Sunday school teacher washing my feet. I wanted to run for a basin of water but fear of disrupting the service held me in place. The urge intensified, yet I doubted. Did God want basins of water in his sanctuary or did I?
Our pastor discerning of the Holy Ghost spoke into the microphone. “The Holy Ghost just spoke to someone to get up and do something. Do it now, in the name of Jesus.”
Thank God for confirmation. In the fellowship hall two dishpans fell to the floor as I opened the cabinet. The words “one for the men and one for the women” whispered through my heart. Quickly (thinking only of myself and my need to be cleansed) I threw two dish cloths into the pans, tossed two towels over my shoulder, filled the pans, and hurried back to the sanctuary with one of them.
Miraculously not one drop of water sloshed over the side of the pans during the two trips to the sanctuary. The people praying in the altars didn’t notice the pans of water placed in front of the communion table. Two folding chairs from the fellowship hall completed the vision.
Back at my place in the altars, desperately praying for permission to sit in one of the chairs, a hand tapped my shoulder. With tears in her eyes, my Sunday school teacher pointed to one of the chairs. The pastor sat in the second chair removing his shoes as a male church member knelt waiting to wash his feet.
Anxiously wanting to experience something new in the Lord, I smiled and sat in the chair. But as my sister in Christ knelt down in front of me and lifted my foot in her hand, humiliation washed over me. Tears began to pour. Why should she be on the floor in her beautiful Sunday dress while I sat high above her in my ordinary one?
A trickle of water hit the top of my foot and the anointing flowed from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. I began to weep uncontrollably. My sister spoke in a heavenly language. As she bathed my feet, first one then the other, a semblance of the humiliation Christ felt hanging on the cross swept over me. Unworthy and unclean, I wanted to spring from the chair. Covering my face with my hands, I tried to hide. My voice mingled with hers as Christ’s love washed over me. In that moment, lost in the Holy Ghost, the depth of Christ sacrifice and his love for me became abundantly clear.
After she dried my feet, we quickly switched places. Bathing her feet, the privilege of being Christ’s servant hit me. I didn’t deserve to be here feeling his presence. I didn’t deserve to be a vessel. But yet, Christ saw fit to humble himself on a cross to lift me from the pit of sin and place me in a position to bring him glory.
The sweet mist of the Holy Ghost surrounded us both. Afterward we both stood worshipping and praising the Lamb. Two other women quickly took our place in the chair and pan of water. They too began to weep and groan in the Spirit. Others stood nearby with looks of longing on their faces. The men likewise spoke with tongues and wept as they bathed one another’s feet. As soon as the chairs were vacated they quickly filled. No one ran. No one shouted. None danced in the Spirit. Strong men wept. Tongues were spoken. In the atmosphere of Jehovah, I wondered if my brothers and sisters felt the awe of the cross or the glory of his resurrection as I did.
Today, I still love to hear about the good old days. But I’m glad I experienced the humbling power of a foot washing first hand. How ironic that while elevated in the chair, I was humbled, but while kneeling, the privileges of serving was made real to me.
My finite mind could not understand how grape juice, a stale cracker, and a basin of water represented the sacrifice of the cross. But the power of the Holy Ghost allowed my soul to commune with the humility and serving-love of my savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.