The Touch of the Towel, a poem based on John 13:1-17

towel-and-basinThe Touch of the Towel, a poem based on John 13:1-17, the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet

Jesus, you kneel before me
You remove my shoes and I am exposed
My feet are grimy
full of calluses and cracks
pungent with sweat and toe jam
I’m embarrassed by them
I pull back but you reassure
You’re not offended
I feel welcome in your hands
vulnerable, yet safe

The cleansing begins
I see your reflection in the ripples
I see me, too
Your water brings truth and life
Who I am and who I can be

I am whole and home in the touch the towel
You look at my neighbor and hand it to me

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Click Here for another reflection on John 13, entitled Jesus Washes Feet
Click Here for a reader’s theatre version of John 13
Click Here for a worship resource entitled Christ’s Call to Serve
Click Here for quotes and a worship resources entitled Lord Make Me Kind

The Touch of the Towel © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You

love_one_another_John 13:34-35 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

“Love one another” is philosophy–good philosophy–something every major religion advocates. But Jesus did not stop there. He added, “as I have loved you.” Word became flesh. A concept became concrete–truth illustrated. Jesus’ example was both the source and confirmation of the message. The pattern is still the same–the word must still become flesh in order to be understood.
– Steve Harper reflecting on John 13:31-35 in The Holy Gospel: April 28, 2013 (Year C)

In an age when the word “love” is greatly abused, it is important to remember that the primary component of biblical love is not affection but commitment. Warm feelings of gratitude may fill our consciousness as we consider all that God has done for us,  but it is not warm feelings that Deuteronomy 6:5 demands of us but rather stubborn, unwavering commitment. Similarly, to love our neighbor, including our enemies, does not mean that we must feel affection for them. To love the neighbor is to imitate God by taking their needs seriously. – Douglas Hare

What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
-Augustine of Hippo

To love your neighbor
is to welcome them
into the home of your heart
where God is.
– Steve Garnaas- Holmes, Heaven Grows Around You

If there is anything in which this life, this way, can be expressed, in which God has revealed Himself most clearly, it is the reality of love. You are someone only in as far as you are love, and only what has turned to love in your life will be preserved.
– Rule for a New Brother

Alas. It is so easy to talk, and so hard to do. It is easy to love people in theory.
– Dorothy Day

[Jesus said love] as I have loved you:
* radical love of enemies, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, lepers;
* the relentless challenges to the righteous and pious, truth telling, table overturning,
* and finally cross bearing and death embracing, laying down his life for his friends.
It makes me want to hide under my desk. I’d feel better if Jesus really ascended far away into heaven, remotely busying himself at the “right hand of the Father.” Unfortunately, the enthronement takes place within our own hearts. Loving one another as he loved us, is, indeed a most intimate commandment.
Suzanne Guthrie, At the Edge of the Enclosure

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared? – Martin Luther

There comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now. – Wangari Maathai

Immense humility, and tender care and gratitude are always fitting for Christians. Being right is interesting, but love for those Christ loves is always one step higher in Jesus’ scale of values. – from the blog of James Howell

I can say that that eternal world is like the white light of the sun, in which all the colors of the rainbow are present and in which each retains its own distinctive character. Or I can say that it is like a symphony in which all the notes are heard in a single perfect harmony, but in which each has its own particular time and place. Or I can say that it is like a multitude of thoughts gathered together in a single mind which comprehends them in a single idea embracing all. Or going deeper, I can say that it is like a communion of persons in love, in which each understands the other and is one with the other. “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one.” This is as far as human words can go. – Bede Griffiths, Return to the Center

For who can truly rejoice who loves not good as the source of his joy?
Who can have true peace, if he have it not with one whom he truly loves?
Who can be long-enduring through persevering continuance in good,
save through fervent love?
Who can be kind, if he love not the person he is aiding?
Who can be good, if he is not made so by loving?
Who can be sound in the faith, without that faith which worketh by love?
Whose meekness can be beneficial in character, if not regulated by love?
And who will abstain from that which is debasing, if he love not that which dignifies?
– Augustine of Hippo

Loving God,
you have made all races and nations to be one family,
and you sent Jesus Christ to proclaim the good news of salvation to all people.
Pour out your Spirit on the whole creation
and hasten the coming of your reign of justice and love among the nations of the world.
God of love, grant our prayer.
by Bosco Peters, from his free electronic book Celebrating Eucharist

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Click here, for an incredibly powerful reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on the steadfast and sacrificial love of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection entitled Victory.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Prays

The Prayer of Jesus by Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theater: Jesus Prays

Based on John 17 (NRSV) 

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the haunting Korean song O-So-So (Come Now, O Prince of Peace) throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing, #2232) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists play softly as the reading begins and continue throughout the reading. This song is especially effective when accompanied by acoustic guitar and djembe.  

ONE VOICE
At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 1 twice

ONE VOICE
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 2 twice

ONE VOICE
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 3 twice

ONE VOICE
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

ALL SINGING
O-So-So, Verse 4 twice

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Click here, for a devotion and another worship resource based on this scripture passage

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader's Theater: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet

Byzantine mosaic of Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the Monreale Cathedral. Public Domain.

Reader’s Theatre: Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Based on
John 13:1-17, 34-35 (NIV)

In this setting, you have the option of incorporating the first verse of The Servant Song throughout the reading. (The Faith We Sing #2222; CCLI # 72673) If you do incorporate the song, consider having the instrumentalists continue to play softly during the readings.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 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 around his waist.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

NARRATOR
Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,

SIMON PETER
Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

JESUS
You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

SIMON PETER
No! You shall never wash my feet.

JESUS
Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

SIMON PETER
Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!

JESUS
A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.

NARRATOR
For Jesus knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

JESUS
Do you understand what I have done for you? 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. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

SOLOIST OR ALL SINGING:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

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Click here, for a devotion and poem based on this scripture passage
Click here, for another worship resource based on this scripture passage

Click here, for an incredibly powerful reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on the steadfast and sacrificial love of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection entitled Victory.

compilation © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

John Day 24: Jesus Washes Feet (John 13:1-20)

Jesus washing Peter’s Feet by Sieger Koder

Gospel of John Reading Plan
Day 24 Reading
: John 13:1-20

Bringing the Word to Life
Spend time with water today. What needs to be cleansed in your life in order for you to better reflect Christ’s servant heart?

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
John 13:8 (NRSV)

1 Peter 5:5b-6 (NRSV)
In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

He Himself is the great Man of Sorrows who knows our ills, Who was called the son of a carpenter, though He was the Son of God and the great Healer of sick souls. Who laboured for 30 years in a humble carpenter’s shop to fulfil God’s will. And God wills that in imitation of Christ, man should live and walk humbly on earth, not reaching for the sky, but bowing to humble things, learning from the Gospel to be meek and humble of heart.
~ Vincent van Gogh

Truly humble people are grounded in reality;
they neither preen under illusions of greatness
nor suffer agonies of self-hatred.
– Paula Huston, Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Re-new Your Spirit

Observation
John 13-17 is commonly referred to as The Farewell Discourse. Jesus gathers the disciples in an upper room for a final meal and some final teaching to prepare them for his death. He begins by letting his actions speak louder than his words. He rises from the table and washes his disciples’ feet as an example of how they are to love and serve one another. Washing feet is the ultimate act of humility, intimacy, and hospitality in his culture.

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues
hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist,
there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
—St. Augustine

If you go back to the original Greek in this passage, it’s easy to see Peter is struggling to even get words out of his mouth. He’s so astonished and so angered by Jesus’ actions that he’s talking and spitting at the same time. It’s inconceivable to him that the Messiah would be washing feet. Foot washing was reserved for gentile slaves, wives, and children- not Jewish men, not for people who weren’t family, not even for Jewish slaves. Peter will not allow Christ to assume the role of a servant. Jesus explains his actions, and in the high emotion of the moment Peter swings to the other extreme, inviting Jesus to wash his head and hands as well. Jesus replies that footwashing is enough and instructs the disciples to love and serve others as he has loved and served them.

Application
Jesus invites us to share life with him, and through him to share life with each other.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others. Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don’t think of themselves.” – Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for?

My prayer came out as a poem today
Jesus, you kneel before me
You remove my shoes and I am exposed
My feet are grimy
full of calluses and cracks
pungent with sweat and toe jam
I’m embarrassed by them
I pull back but you reassure
You’re not offended
I feel welcome in your hands
vulnerable, yet safe

The cleansing begins
I see your reflection in the ripples
I see me, too
Your water brings truth and life
Who I am and who I can be

I am whole and home in the touch the towel
You look at my neighbor and hand it to me

poem © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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For more information on the Gospel of John Reading Plan, click here 

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.