Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Maundy Thursday

I was blessed to have a great night sleep in Virginia Beach and welcome the early morning with this glorious sunrise. I sent the photo to my sweet husband who wrote back, "Just like Yo Momma." Mom takes photos of sunsets at Lake Michigan and around the world like it is her job to document the movement of the sun. The cottage is covered in her works of art. The sunrise last week reminded me of God's promise of new life in Christ with every new day. 

This week is one of my favorites of the year. Holy Week. I have so many memories from when I worked at Christ Church Georgetown during Holy Week. I always think of my dear friends David and Lorinda Umphlett. David is a priest in North Carolina and was our seminarian during my three years at the church. Lorinda was the Youth and Family Education Director and we loved working together. I can't think of Holy Week without thinking of them. 

We would get a little drunk off church that week going sometimes three times a day. Maundy Thursday however always struck the most emotional nerve with me with its traditional foot washing. There is nothing more humbling than to take off your shoes and have someone else wash your feet. Especially if you don't have a pedicure, or as a student once worried, "but I just came from Lacrosse practice." I image Christ washing the feet of His friends at the Last Supper. It is so moving. So emotional. So personal and tender. Christ gets up from the table, takes off his outer robe and wraps a towel around himself. He pours water in a basin and washes the disciples feet with the same towel. You have to get low to the ground to wash someones feet. It's humbling. I imagine dusty, dirty feet were among the disciples. Callouses. I'm sure gross does not even begin to describe these feet. Christ knows he is about to go to the cross. He's about to be betrayed by a close friend. He's about to be denied by another friend. He's about to be let down when He asks His friends to stay up and pray with Him in the garden of Gethsemane. He asks for one favor and his buddies couldn't stay awake and fell asleep in that garden. And yet, He is the one that gets down on the ground and washes their feet the night before He is crucified.  It makes me cry just thinking about it. 

I had a beautiful experience at a retreat once where the group sat in a circle and we were supposed to wash the feet of the person to our left. The person to my left was a stroke victim and happened to have on stockings that day. So she invited me to wash her crippled hand instead, the hand that no one ever shook when greeting her. It was such a special moment. Intimate. Humbling. I was so thankful in that moment to know Catrina and have her trust me to wash her hand. I was so thankful for the use of my left hand. I was so thankful for God's unending love for me despite my flaws.

Maundy Thursday strikes a cord in many when I speak about this foot washing business. I have many friends who are Christians, who were raised in the church and know this story from the John 13:1-15. It's the friends who hear it for the first time that get goosebumps. I still get goosebumps. It's the story that never gets old for me. Ultimately it's the story of forgiveness and love.

Where ever your Holy Week takes you, try to enjoy the quiet of the sunrise each morning. Try to just sit silently for ten minutes. Write a long lost friend you love a letter. If you can try to make a foot washing on Maundy Thursday find a service and go. The Cathedral of the Incarnation has a service at 6:00 pm with the stripping of the altar afterwards and Memorial Episcopal has a service at 7:30 pm in Bolton Hill. 

Wishing you a very Holy Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.


LPC said...

Nelle, I'm an atheist. And I found this post so beautiful. Thank you.

Nelle Somerville said...

Thanks Lisa. Hope you have an extrodinary day!

JMW said...

Nelle, what a beautiful post. Holy Week is such a special, reflective time. You have captured Holy Thursday wonderfully. I have also found Good Friday's Adoration of the Cross (I'm Catholic) service very moving as well. It's a very emotional week. Looking forward to rejoicing in Sunday!

Kristin Safford said...

beautiful, so loving of you