Can I just wash my hands?

Today is Maundy Thursday and it is the time in the Church when we recall Jesus and the disciples sharing the last supper and Jesus' "mandate" to his disciples to serve others.

John's Gospel has a dramatic scene in which Jesus' washes the feet of his disciples, to which Peter cries out "Don't wash my feet, I should be washing your feet!"  Jesus tells him to be quiet and realize that leaders are those who are willing to serve and that unless Jesus washes his feet then they have no "share" with him.  Jesus goes on to instruct the disciples to wash one another's feet.

It is an iconic story and for that reason a tradition has grown up around the thought that on Maundy Thursday, Christians partake in a foot washing ritual.

That is until recently.

For a number of reasons that are not rational, we have a fear of feet.  To make sure we the community is not "uncomfortable" many Christians have substituted at foot washing for a hand washing ritual.  This is a bit odd to me because the only person to wash their hands in the whole narrative is Pilate after he condemns Jesus to death, but whatever - feet are weird.

It seems to me that the very fact that we find it weird or strange or uncomfortable or off putting is the exact reason we ought to practice this example of Jesus.  Even Peter protests in the story and Jesus basically says, "Peter, sit down, I don't care if you think it is odd that I am washing your feet.  This is what those who follow me do.  We wash feet.  We get dirty.  We do the things that no one wants to do.  We serve.  So I do not care if you find it weird, sit down and let me do this so you can wash others."

Yet, we are still like Peter.  Because feet are weird.

Someone whom I respect said to me one time, "Well I don't do the foot washing because it was a cultural practice of Jesus of which we do not do any longer.  So it is appropriated for Jesus to wash feet but not so much for us today."

Okay, forget that Jesus actually commands us.  Forget that it is something that Jesus actually did and we are to do what Jesus does.  We do a number of things today that Jesus did even if they were culturally located.

We have a baptism of repentance.
We practice hospitality.
We share in common meals.

Even if that is not enough, then let us consider another question.  If foot washing is a symbol of getting dirty and serving others, then where is the church, where are you and I, getting dirty and serving others?  Have we relegated serving others to writing a check and letting others who "have a call to service and mission" do the work?

Perhaps it is appropriate that we like to wash our hands on Maundy Thursday because we in the Church like to keep our hands from getting too dirty.