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. John 13:14-15
On February 23, 1998, we flew with Marc Nikkel and Bishop Nathaniel Garang from Lokichokkio by small privately chartered plane into the village of Yomcir, Southern Sudan. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) controls this area. A joyful crowd of Christians singing, clapping, drumming, and bearing their crosses high welcomed us. During our five days there we visited the community of Wuningor, is the cattle camps of Nagoor, who is the man who first established it as a dry-season cattle camp in 1970's. We crossed the river, and found on the other side were hundreds of people singing songs and raising high their crosses, and we received a warm welcome by the faithful flock of Wuningor.
We were taken into the village in a procession with songs of "Alleluia, Yasu Christo. We welcome you in the name of the Lord." The woman of Mothers' Union brought warm water in a bowl and washed our tired feet with soap and water. They dried them with such tender love and care! To the western mind it is subservient act of female suppression. In the Sudanese culture it is honoring the guest. It is mothers who provide tender care to the family, and fathers who go to the cattle camps and till the land for food. These were our mothers and sisters who touched us with their highest form of love. Our hearts were full of gratitude, and I shared the yearning inside me with another fellow team member. I said, " I pray to God to give us in the west an opportunity to be servants of Christ to this Sudanese community."
I would like to ask why does Jesus wash our feet? And why does he ask us to wash each other's feet? What is the signification behind it? So Jesus washes the feet in a sense of cleansing. But also, Jesus is there on his knees as a servant, as a slave---to be there for us. There is something inconceivable that the Lord and master, in this flimsy tunic washing our feet, says to us "I want to serve you; I want to empower you. Because you will receive the Holy Spirit. And you must continue what I have done. You must be filled with the Spirit of God, so that you can go out to the ends of the earth, to bring that love to all people of all cultures." Jesus empowers us to serve each other, to love each other. With this spirit there will be no competitive game of 'I know more than you' or 'my theology is better than you.' We will fulfill our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Prayer: O God, most merciful Father, we praise you for sending your Son Jesus Christ, who took on himself the form of servant, and humbled himself, becoming obedient even to death on the cross. We praise you that you have highly exalted him, and made him Lord of all; and that, through him, we know that whoever would be great must be servant of all. We praise you for the many opportunities of ministry in your Church to serve you and our fellow human beings to accomplish your purposes on earth. Fill us with your grace and power to be the vessels of your love to serve; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Maunday is derived from the Latin mandare, which means "to command." It refers to the two commandments given to us by our Lord Jesus on the first Maunday Thursday. "Do this in remembrance of me," and "Love one another as I have loved you. Mandatum novum do vobis.)