John 13:13-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
“You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
How May I Serve You?
On a recent Sunday evening at Rebel & Divine UCC, one of our homeless young adults took a shower and put on a new outfit he’d picked up at our clothing bank. I noticed him with dripping wet hair, standing somberly over a large dark trash bin. He was holding the outfit he’d been wearing continuously for the previous seven days. After standing there for a few minutes in deep thought, he opened his hands and released the clothing.
Moving closer I started a conversation with him. He shared that the t-shirt was his favorite article of clothing “ever.” It was well worn and frankly a tad ripe. He expressed frustration that he could only take with him what he was wearing. His backpack was so full of his essentials that its seams were starting to split. I respectfully asked if I could take the discarded clothes home and wash them for him. Looking at me in a peculiar manner, he walked off saying, “Whatever you want.”
I washed the clothes, with bleach, several times. I tumbled them dry with springtime fabric softener sheets. The clothes were bright and fresh when they were returned to him with little fanfare a few weeks later. An hour must have passed before he pulled me aside. With a bit of machismo, he said, “You didn’t have to fold my clothes.” and “Thank you — I can’t believe you folded my clothes!” I noticed the teary eyes accompanying his smile.
Jesus often spoke to his disciples about ministry. He didn’t charm their egos with visions of celebrity and certain wealth. He referred to the ministry as diakonos, which at its most basic level means to be a humble servant. It was defined by the powerless roles women and children were required to play in society at the time. Becoming one of his followers meant to set aside your own authority. In this way kings, religious leaders, and tax collectors were brought down while waitresses, pedicurists, and maids were lifted up.
That dapper young homeless man looked at me like I’d performed a miracle that night. Not because I had done anything out of the ordinary, but because I’d done something for him that no one else had ever done. In folding his newly laundered clothing, he began to feel worthy. That young man invites all of his friends to attend church with us, not because we told him too, but because he wants them to have that same experience. We continue to grow.
In other church circles these days I’m hearing a lot about fear. People want to know what that next “big” thing is they will have to do to survive. I wonder if church in this postmodern age is actually a return to the basics? Imagine a place where the least of these feel safe to be themselves. Imagine a place where the voiceless are asked to lead the discussion. Imagine a place where the hungry literally break bread and share the cup. Imagine a place where the naked are clothed and dirty leave clean. Imagine a place where the pastor’s sermon is witnessed, not just heard.
Imagine a place where lives are transformed.
Jesus loved people, very different from himself, into wholeness. Acting in his place in our world today, this new church 3.0 concept really isn’t something to fear. It doesn’t require concert stages, rock bands, and nightclub light displays in our sanctuaries. Maybe it’s actually church unplugged? Maybe it’s focusing less on Sunday morning’s show and prioritizing the building of relationships? Maybe it’s setting aside the first time visitor gifts and offering to wash, dry, and fold our guests’ clothing? It seems the only requirement to ministry today is that Christ be witnessed in each of us.
Holy One, we celebrate your unlimited and unconditional love. Yet we seem to have forgotten the role we play in keeping that love alive in our world today. Assist us in witnessing Christ’s everyday miracles through our humble service. Amen & let it be so!
Rev. Jeffrey Dirrim is a graduate of the Pacific School of Religion(Berkeley, CA) and is currently serving as the Founding Pastor and Executive Director of Rebel & Divine United Church of Christ in Phoenix, Arizona. It is an incredibly diverse missional faith community focused on the health and wholeness of at risk(especially LGBTQ) youth/young adults. Those he serves lovingly refer to him as their “Pomo-homo-genderqueer Pastor!” To learn more visit the church’s website.
God is still speaking!