Friday, March 21, 2008

The Basin and the Towel

This week has been anything but a holy one for the disciples. One minute they were dreading the trip to Jerusalem, the next they were breathing a sigh of relief as they saw the crowd praising and acclaiming him as king. They could barely look ahead from one day to the next, each moment giving rise to the deafening crescendo, the death of their friend and master.

Yet in the midst of this turmoil comes a moment of respite, as Jesus calls them away to share the Passover meal together. And tucked away in this account of their last meal together comes the most tender of moments. The one who days before had been acclaimed by all as King, and who would soon bear the greatest agony ever known to man, kneels before each of them in humility and tenderly washes their feet.

Peter speaks for all of them when he asks Jesus what he’s doing. And Jesus assures him that, although they can't possibly understand it now, someday they will. The disciples squirm in discomfort as they watch and wait their turn. Why was their master humiliating himself like this, performing a task reserved for the lowliest of servants? I imagine him as he approached each of them, looking up at them with gentle eyes and whispering words of assurance, perhaps sharing a memory or two. “I love you. I care about you. I know you’re afraid of what lies ahead. I understand. And I’m here for you.”

In this time of great uncertainty about their future, perhaps Jesus was saying, "This is how you'll be able to go on. Be in community with one another. Be there for each other. When it comes to serving your brother, nothing is beneath you. Quit worrying about your place in the pack. It's not about you; it's about each other."

I think Michael Card, in his song The Basin and the Towel, captures the essence and beauty of this night:

In an upstairs room
A parable is just about to come alive
And while they bicker about who's best
With a painful glance He'll silently rise
Their Savior Servant must show them how
Through the will of the water
And the tenderness of the towel

In any ordinary place
On any ordinary day
The parable can live again
When one will kneel and one will yield
Our Savior Servant must show us how
Through the will of the water
And the tenderness of the towel

And the space between ourselves sometimes
Is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the servant's bow
We take up the basin and the towel

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility to take the vow
That day after day we must take up
The basin and the towel

(c)1994 Birdwing Music (a div. of the Sparrow Corporation) (ASCAP)
From Poiema by Michael Card


Becky said...

Well said ... you AND Michael.

Blessed Easter to you Dianne!

Joan B. said...

"And the space between ourselves sometimes is more than the distance between the stars" is such a powerful reminder of how hard it is to experience true community and how much that is what Easter is about. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Easter blessings, Dianne.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

What a great description--thanks for bringing meaning to the season.

Tami Boesiger said...

You make me want to be there, Dianne. Happy Easter, my friend.