Lent 2018 – Week 1 – the bowl and the towel

Reading: John 13: 1-14

(3 – 5) Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.

(12 -14) When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

14th Feb – Ash Wednesday

Singing the Faith 266
Psalm 8

If you think back to the summer, can you remember what it feels like when you take your shoes off at the end of a hot and sticky day?
I have to confess to having smelly feet. And I would only want to take my shoes off in private.
Now imagine what it must be like when roads are dust tracks. Like walking on the beach and getting shoes full of sand, the dirt would invade your footwear and mixed with sweat your feet would be mucky if not also sweaty.
No wonder washing feet was necessary in Jesus’ culture.
And no wonder washing feet was the task of the lowest servant! You would wish and hope for promotion so that you could move on to more savoury tasks.
Jesus CHOOSES to remove the disciples’ sandals and, on his knees in front of them – up close and personal with their feet, he lovingly washes away the dirty and grim and sweat, making them comfortable and fresh. He rubs away the junk and detritus and dries them with a towel.
Try to see Jesus now, at your feet.
How does it make you feel?
Does his humility embarrass or calm you?
Do you feel comfortable with the Son of God in a lowly position or do you want to lift him up or push him away?
Allow him to refresh you and make you comfortable with his loving and humble action.
Lord Jesus, help me to understand your humility and love, to accept your help and service, to feel refreshed and comforted. Amen

Pray for babies under the age of one, especially those who come along to the NCT Bumps and Babes group that runs here.
Pray for new born babies throughout the world, especially for those being born into poverty or in places in the world where their safety is at risk.

15th Feb – Thursday

Singing the Faith 272
Psalm 67

It was lowly servants or slaves who had the task of foot washing. In taking on this task, Jesus is teaching the disciples a new reality – that those who are in charge, who have the privilege of high office, are to act in humility and serve those for whom they have responsibility.
If God the Son can stoop to wash dirty human feet, no job is too menial or too grubby for me to do.
Jesus deserves the highest honour from us. He deserves the highest possible position. Is he on the very throne of our lives – at the centre of all we do – given authority by us to shape and guide our lives?
If God the Son can stoop to wash feet, he can stoop to the most humble act of all – willingly dying a criminal’s death so that we can walk free – dying so that we can live.
No one forced Jesus to the cross any more than he was forced to get down on the floor and wash feet.
Paul tells us:

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.

And he reminds us that we should have the same mind that was in Jesus.
Lord, you have offered us a pattern of humility and voluntary slave-hood. May I take just one more step towards the model that you have provided today. And may many other steps follow.

Pray for new parents. Although it is exciting, being a new parent is exhausting and can be bewildering. Many of our new parents live a long way away from grandparents, and they need to build new support networks.
Pray for new parents worldwide. Pray that access to quality maternity and post-natal care may become freely available to all, not just a privileged few. Pray too, for the training and resourcing of healthcare professionals that work with new parents.

16th Feb – Friday

Singing the Faith 249
Psalm 98

The Psalmist says:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

When Jesus went to wash Peter’s feet, he objected. Jesus told him that he could have no part in Jesus if he refused and with characteristic over enthusiasm, Peter asks to be washed from head to foot! Jesus reminded Peter that he is clean and only his feet would frequently need to be washed in the symbolic sense.
Feet were almost dirty again the moment they had been washed in dusty Palestine. So even if a person had washed from head to foot, their feet were always in need of washing.
We are washed clean of sin in Baptism and in our faith in Jesus. But we keep on stepping in stuff that needs washing off! We keep on making mistakes and needing the forgiving, cleansing touch of Jesus.
Offer the mistakes of yesterday to Jesus now. Don’t dwell on them, just he honest and hand them over.
Now sense the washing clean of Jesus with the towel and bowl.
Experience the relief of feeling fresh and free from the clogging, cloying sin that can make us feel dirty all over. That has gone.
You are ready to start again, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, avoid the muddy puddles you stepped in yesterday.
Lord Jesus, thank you for washing our feet – removing our guilt and refreshing us to head out again on our journey with you.
It cost you very dearly – you took on our guilt when you were nailed to the cross to die.
So, our thanks is from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.

Pray for toddlers and parents of toddlers. Often toddlers are not easy, as they learn how to stand their own ground and exercise their determination. Pray for patience for parents dealing with challenging behaviours.
Pray for young children worldwide. Quality nurture at this young age sows seeds for a good childhood. Pray for opportunities for all children to be able to play safely.

17th Feb – Saturday

Singing the Faith 242
Psalm 121

The water running through my fingers is crystal clear
The water running through Jesus’ fingers, perhaps less so.
As I plunge my dusty hands in the water it clouds.
Jesus plunges the disciples’ feet into the water and it turns brown.
Pull out the plug – let the used water drain away.
Jesus, throw the water onto the vegetable patch.
A new image crowds into my attention.
A child, somewhere in Africa – many places in the developing world.
She is stooping to collect water that is foul.
He is washing in water more contaminated than his skin.
They have no clean water to drink – certainly none for washing.
I picture a man beside a skinny cow, a woman amongst parched crops.
I turn on the tap and watch the fresh, cool liquid gushing, spraying into my cup.
I am humbled.
I am grateful.
I am sorry for the water I have wasted and taken for granted.
God, bless those who work to end the scandal of water poverty. We have the technology, the wealth to provide clean water for all. Forgive us for our selfishness and our blindness to the needs of others. Challenge us to care as Jesus cared. To give as he gave. Amen.

Pray for Julie and the staff of Shirley Pre School, which is based in our building. Julie and her team work very hard to provide a happy, safe and stimulating place for children to play and learn.
Pray for all adults who work in education in any setting. Access to a good education is every child’s right and, in many countries, is the best route out of poverty. Pray that school for all becomes a reality worldwide.