Tumbling in the Sand
“What can we do to help you?’
I remember that question so vividly
It came from the mouth of the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Nigeria.
We, a group of seminarians from all over the US, were spending several weeks in Geneva, Switzerland at the World Council of Churches learning all about churches all over the world and we had just spent the last couple of days learning all about Africa—the challenges of poverty, AIDs, Malaria, violence—and we were all ready to as the bishop how we could help them.
How we could make a difference for the churches in Africa with all of our great resources in the US of A, as part of the wealthy ELCA
And instead, he asked us, “What can we do to help you? How can the churches in Africa help our sisters and brothers in the United States?
And in a single sentence, he flipped the script. He reminded us that real relationships of love —real relationships formed in the waters of baptism and forged by the fire of the Spirit— are not relationships built in one direction.
No, love is shown both ways
by serving and by being served
by providing help and by being helped
by sharing each other with each other.
And so here is Jesus—
wrapping a towel around his waist
kneeling at his disciples’ feet
pouring water on those feet
— calloused from following him
from going as he’d sent them
from giving themselves again and again over to Jesus’ journey
Feet that would run away shortly
but would find their way back
and would go into the world to tell others about Jesus
Feet worn and worked in service
And there is Jesus washing each foot
drying them on the towel
an act of love
an act of service
But Peter, of course, give us each voice in protest
This is backwards! This is wrong!
I can wash my own feet, thank you very much.
I’m good. I don’t need help.
Seriously … that’s where he’s going with that.
That’s where we all go with this.
We are really good at helping others
But not so good at receiving help in return.
I say we, but maybe that not true for you?
Maybe you’re really good at receiving help?
But judging by the fact it seems like the hardest lesson to learn
as we grow older and less able to do what we used to do —
I have a feeling maybe you’re in the same boat with Peter.
I know I am.
In an effort to become a better supervisor and
help the staff function better as a team,
I’ve begun a daily update email that I expect each staff member to do as well.
And there is this one question in this update
(that I, of course, lifted wholesale from the internet)
that I find really hard to answer.
The question is,
“What do you need help with?”
Because, of course, as a team
to work together, this question matters.
And yet, I, like Peter would be inclined to answer,
“I’m fine.” “I’ve got this.”
And yet, that is such a lie.
Of course I need help.
Of course, I can’t do this on my own.
None of us can.
We need the love of God poured out on our feet
like clean water
We need the passionate grace of God give to us in bread and wine
And we need each other.
We need to serve and be served
to share with each other each other
We, as I’m sure I’ve quoted to you before,
“We are but angels with one wing and we can only fly by holding to each other.”
And we do that not only by reaching out to serve
but by accepting the hands that reach out to us
“A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another.
Let us practice this love for one another:
learning to serve and to be cared for
and in so doing, let us show the world the love of God.