I was never a big fan of Alice in Wonderland. Of course it’s a great classic, and everybody is supposed to know and love it. To me it all seemed very strange, like the product of a mind that wasn’t really thinking straight. I think I considered it a girls’ story anyway; give me Biggles any day! And yet, there were certainly aspects of Alice that became part of our national culture: the mad hatter’s tea-party, for instance, or the (equally mad) Queen of Hearts. One thing that stuck in my mind was the concept of the ‘unbirthday party’. That sounded good to me. Presents, parties, fun and games – all laid on for no particular reason, or was it, perhaps, to celebrate the 364 days of the year when it was not your birthday?
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He didn’t exactly hold a party. But He did do some rather strange and very memorable things. For example, He grabbed a towel and washed His disciples’ feet. That was not an unusual action of course, given the state of the dirty, dusty roads and the open sandals that everyone wore. What was unusual was that this routine act of service, normally done by a no-account slave, was in this case done by the Master, the Rabbi, the Leader – the Lord of all. Why?
Jesus Himself tells us why. ‘I’ve given you an example to follow’, He says (Jn 13:15). ‘Go and do this kind of thing for each other’.
Washing of feet was obviously a cultural thing, appropriate for the circumstances. What would be an equivalent act of service, or friendship, in our culture? Offering a cup of tea (with one of Roger’s biscuits of course)? Doing someone’s shopping for them? Simply making a phone call to check someone is OK? Giving a bunch of flowers as a sign of care? It has been very special to see this kind of thing happening all over the country in the present lockdown circumstances. I wonder how far it will continue after things settle down? How much will our society be changed into something more caring, more loving, more Christ-like?
What act of service could you do today, that would show the love of Jesus, in the spirit of foot-washing, and perhaps contribute to a degree of transformation in our society?