The young man second from left is my oldest grandson, Asher Thomas Patten. His Mom posted this pic on her facebook page, taken this morning at his school, Harding Academy in Searcy, Arkansas. Asher is a bright young guy who is graduating from the 6th grade, heading into Jr Hi next year. He is an athlete, musician, singer, easy on the eyes and deeply spiritual.
I am grateful to Harding Academy for giving these kids a spiritual experience few if any of their parents have ever thought of doing much less actually engaging in washing someone else's feet. Foot washing is just not something our spiritual tradition has taught or practiced, although if you asked, most believe in to some degree. These young men and women actually washed the feet of their teachers. HOW COOL IS THAT!
Many years ago my Dad's father asked me to drive him to the church he had been a sometime member of for many years. As far as I ever knew, the only time grandpa went to that church was when they had their annual footwashing service. At the time I was a teenager and had never seen anything like that or even heard of any church who did so. For some reason this was important to my grandpa so I drove him to the site on a creek behind their church building and for the first time witnessed a footwashing service.
Later, I asked my other grandfather, an elder and teacher in our church, why we didn't do footwashing. I had read Jesus command to his Apostles in John 13 after he had washed their feet and it all seemed pretty clear to me. My grandfather surprised me with a rather casual response that Jesus didn't really intend that we actually wash each others' feet but that we should simply serve one another. So, I dismissed it as the wisdom of a man I respected and trusted completely and hardly thought of it for many years.
In 2003, I worked with a small group of mostly new Christians to plant a new church in a rapidly growing suburb east of Dallas. About a year or so later, as one of the elders of that new church of nearly 100, we decided to just wash the feet of every member. So, we planned a special service and told our folks what we going to do and if anyone was not comfortable with having their feet washed to simply not remove their shoes. Only one younger sister kept her shoes on.
I cant say with certainty that Jesus' command to his disciples at John 13 was intended to be replicated by all succeeding generations or even by the Apostles. There is no evidence I am aware of that those men ever washed each others' feet or taught that practice to the early church. Maybe my church elder grandfather was right, but at the very least, I see no reason to ignore or even condemn the practice. Surely there is a place for disciples of Jesus to follow his example and command in some fashion.
So, thank you Harding Academy for teaching my grandson to serve some special people in his life in this way. I praise their leadership and the young men and women for teaching them the lesson of Jesus in a very memorable way. I am proud of you Asher Thomas and pray the experience will be one more step in your spiritual education that will never be forgotten. HALLELUJAH!