Maundy Thursday: Washing Feet, Loving, Praying, Forgiving

Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem

The following post by friend, and Following the Spirit vocation discernment series collaborator, Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem is reprinted with permission.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-7, 31b-35

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight? That’s the question Jesus got to answer. Jesus knew the time had come for him to depart from this world. He knew he was going to die. And with the last remaining hours of his life, he chose to love and care for his disciples.

The Bible tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. So he stood up from the supper table, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples feet. I imagine he knelt down, held each foot tenderly, poured water on it, and wiped it clean. I imagine him doing this slowly, quietly and gently. And I imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of his followers. I bet he said some words to each one. They had the chance to really and truly be with one another. What a way to say goodbye.

Jesus told them, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet…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.”

The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Isn’t that interesting? The world will know they are Jesus’ disciples when they love one another. Jesus doesn’t say the world will know we are his disciples by the size of our congregations, the strength of our youth programs, the sound of our choirs or even the end to social injustice. Jesus says the world will know we are his disciples when we love one another.

That, my friends, is all about forgiveness. And forgiveness is so hard. Because hurt feelings hurt. Betrayal stings. Disappointment really disappoints. And unmet expectations are so hard to deal with. But Jesus gives us a new commandment. We are to love one another. And this is how the world will know that we are Jesus’ followers.

Tonight we have the chance to serve one another by washing each other’s feet. But only some of us will get to do that. There’s another way to work toward forgiveness. And that is in prayer.

Last week, I lost patience with my daughter because she wasn’t practicing piano the way I wanted her to. I shared my frustration with my spiritual director. He suggested I take it to prayer. He said that Holy Spirit will work in that prayer to change me. So that can become more loving toward her. {I wondered if that was really the solution we needed ;-)}

Someone shared a meditation with me that is helping me become more forgiving and patient. I think we can learn something from this, because it is congruent with Jesus and his ministry among us. Let’s practice a prayer of forgiveness.

Practicing a Prayer of Forgiveness

Breathe deeply, and feel your body relax into the chair or pew. Breathe and sit with yourself. Imagine that you are no longer your ordinary self, but that you can see things from a larger perspective, from the center of your being. From this perspective you feel warmth and tenderness for yourself. Feel your heart as a center of kindness and imagine it contains a purifying fire.

If you are agitated, lonely, scared, misunderstood, angry, anxious, accept this suffering part of yourself. Breathe the dark cloud of your suffering into your heart. Imagine your suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Rest in this space.

Next, bring to mind someone close to you, whom you know is suffering, Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Breathe out healing and love towards them.

Now think of someone you love, but with whom your relationship is more challenging or complicated. You may feel jealous of them, or find communicating difficult at times. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now think of someone you find difficult to love. Someone you find irritating, someone you feel resentful toward, someone who has hurt you. Hold them in your heart. Connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy.

Now, imagine all of these people together – the person you love easily, your friend with whom your relationship is more complicated, the person you find very difficult to love, and you. Hold them in your heart. connect with them and their difficulties. Breathe in the sorrows of the person you have visualized. Imagine their suffering transformed, and breathe out healing love, warmth, confidence and joy. Sit quietly and allow your heart and your breath to rest.

This kind of prayer may feel uncomfortable. But I believe it is the work of forgiveness. We need to work on forgiveness. Jesus says the world will know we are his followers when we love one another. And the only way we can love one another is in and through forgiveness. It’s true in our families, in our friendships, at work and in this community of faith.

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The night before he died, Jesus could have done anything. He was the Son of God. And he chose to wash his imperfect, difficult, slow-minded disciples’ feet. He transformed the Passover Meal into the Lord’s Supper when he gave them the bread and wine, saying this is my body and blood given for you. Do this for the the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus knew he had come from God and that he was going to God. In the security of this relationship and in God’s love, Jesus was free to love, forgive and care for his disciples. And so are we. There are a lot of things we think we should do as a church, but Jesus tells us we are his followers when we love one another. Amen.

 

Returning to the Blog…

Sr. Mary Margaret - Xavi's Sky

Sr. Mary Margaret, vhm; September 13, 2012*

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“You have to love….It is the reason you are here on Earth.” Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum LP

I have been absent from this blog for a while. I am ready to return. I crave deeply the time that is afforded to me to sit, reflect, be still with experience and emotion and the way that I hear God at work in the hum of all creation.

I stand at a distance from this contemplative process and ache for the joy that arises in my prayerful writing time; I return to my laptop in a celebratory fashion — embracing all that has kept me at bay, and all that compels me to sit down and align my fingers to this keyboard to compose something — hopefully — prayerfully, something honest, true, inspiring.  Yes.

“I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.” — Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

My work on these pages centers around contemplative thought and action, highlighting the spiritual lives of the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis as I share from own lived experience as a Companion to their monastic order. I pray with the sisters and their lay community; I take note of what feels most compelling to my heart, mind and spirit;  and then I do my best to give voice here to the life-giving nature of their urban community — their mission to “LIVE JESUS!” in the inner city.

"We are all called!"

"We are all called! We are all held by a loving God who 'knows every hair on our head.'"**

Along the way, I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.

Two and half  months ago God’s calling for my own life, however,  sort of tipped me sideways and leveled me almost completely to the ground. On July 24, 2012, I learned that the 21 week old child I was carrying in utero had fetal anomalies that would prevent him from having a very long life beyond my womb. This news has informed my walk, my faith and my calling as a Visitation Companion each and every day since then.

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"*

On September 13, 2012, at 29 weeks gestational age, I gave birth to my son, Xavier Jean Kiemde. His heart beat for one hour beyond my body. Before a sacred post-op room of family and friends, Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie and Vis Companions Brian Mogren and godparents Fabio and Sonja Anifrani baptized Xavi — honoring his precious time among us, and helping deliver him into the communion of saints as an anointed, “priest, prophet, and king.”  The experience is still fresh with me, and simultaneously stored as emotional images in my heart and mind — that keep me reflecting, and inspire me to celebrate.

We are all called! We are all held radically by a loving God who “knows every hair on our head,” right? And all of us are invited into the waters of baptism where we are anointed and claimed as Servant, Leader, Love-Force, exemplifying Christ’s compassion and community.

In this tender and trying recent experience of life and loss, I know God is at work, helping fashion my heart and inspire further my presence on this earth. I know I am called as a mother, writer, woman, lover of God to give voice to all that has transpired in these past days. I begin here, offering myself and my life to you.

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*photos by Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion
**photo by Salina Caldes, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”

Washing Feet: A Holy Contemplation

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s Holy Week, and I’m trying to enter into this most sacred time with an empty heart, mind, spirit. But I tell you, it’s hectic. It’s hard to slow down and put away desire, to-do’s, and tune out the news. Yet, here I am. Trying.

Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they?

In my coffee shop meditation, I slide away my cell phone, recognize my ice tea glass is empty, and savor the smell of fresh, hot garlic french fries – for just a minute more – as I try to make way for Holy Thursday’s scripture. As I tune my spirit to focus, I can see: I am like this glass in this moment: empty, cold, waiting to be filled. Yes!  I know the flavor of and satisfaction possible through meditation, if I just tune in; I can savor these biblical readings…..

From the USCCB’s website, where I go for online readings, I find “Holy Thursday: Evening Mass for the Lord’s Supper.”

I scan Exodus, I hum the psalm, (and hear my choir mate, Ann Shallbetter singing, “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.” ) I linger over St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, recognizing the heart of the mass present in Christ’s instructive prayer. I pause and hold on the central image in John’s gospel:

He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.

And now I am still.

A towel.

A basin of water.

Feet.

Christ washing His disciples’ feet.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

I think of this act literally. Fingers, hands, immersed in water, maybe soap, and then touching another’s skin. Ankles, toes, soles of feet. Are there callouses? Can you even try to fathom the feet of Peter or James or John or Judas? These weren’t nike-wearing brothers, were they? I don’t think so. Sandal-clad gents with exposed toes, me thinks. Dusty. A little salt and sand and dirt under the toe nails. Is it necessary that I go this far in my meditation? It’s where my brain takes me. I don’t push these images out, but let them carry me to this place, this room where He is.

I want to be Christ’s hands. I want to wash those feet. I want to be a disciple. I want to know what it’s like to have Jesus pour water over me.

It’s humbling, this exercise of prayer and imagination. For a minute I’m in Jerusalem, it’s warm, and I’m a robe-and-sandal-sporting fellow present in Christ’s company (far removed from this Grand Avenue, St. Paul coffee shop.) I am seated. I am in awe at what I’m witnessing. My heart is on fire with a desire to do just this: serve. I marvel at this man, my friend, Jesus, who has gotten down to clean our feet.

Who does such a thing? A mother? A nurse? Someone whose ego allows such a bowed, bent stance?

I will carry this feeling of awe, humility and desire with me this day. I will pray that the proximity afforded me in my imaginings of Christ will keep me near Him in his journey to the garden, to Golgotha, the cross and to the tomb. I will pray that my Easter journey be aligned beyond this week’s holy re-enactments and continue to inspire my work as a Lover, Follower, Teacher, Visitation Companion.

Will you join me in this prayer?

Happy Holy Thursday!

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