Imagine the dust. I’m sure it could tell a story. The places they’d been, the roads they’d walked. The cracks in their feet, the hardened leather soles, they all told the story of a movement that was doomed before it ever began. They told the story of a disheveled group of men and women who had wound their way back and forth across the Jordan, all the way up from Galilee. A young band of idealists, they might as well have been kids, who thought they could change the world. They were going to rid themselves of an oppressive empire. They were going to be free at last! Each step, day after day, had led them to this place, to this hour, to this meal.
Do you know the definition of a disciple, in some circles? It’s someone who follows so closely in their teacher’s footsteps that the hem of their robe gets caked in the dust kicked up by their teacher’s sandals. That’s all they wanted to be, those intrepid adventurers. They wanted to be covered in dust, they wanted to be washed with the dirt of the road and they wanted to feast on his every word. And yet here they are, reclining at this last table, on this last night, feasting on this last supper. And here he is, kneeling down and washing their feet. Their teacher, their leader, their Christ, there he is, kneeling down in front of them like the lowliest of servants, and washing their feet.
Imagine the dust as it washes away, all of their hopes and their dreams and their very identities with it. Imagine the dust as it turns to mud in the bottom of the basin, a sign perhaps, of the pool that will gather at the foot of the cross just a few short hours from now when blood and water will come pouring forth from his side. Imagine the dust, when days from now, the water will have evaporated and it lays caked on the bottom of the bowl, waiting, alongside the whole world, for the return of the son of man, of the God who once fashioned the heavens and the earth, who promised to restore all things in due time.
Imagine the dust at the end of time when the trumpets shall sound and the earth renewed and those who had gone down to the dust shall make their victory cry. After all, remember: you are dust and to dust you shall return. You are the dust that began this journey not so many weeks ago. You are the dust that walks, and watches, and waits for our Lord. You are the dust which shall rise again when the time is fulfilled. When all people from East to West, from North to South, from every language, and nation, and tribe, and all walks of life shall join together at the supper of the lamb.
It’s no coincidence that these two events, the washing of the feet and the sharing of the meal are happening together here on this night. While he washes their feet he reminds them that they are small, unclean, in need of purification, but he also reminds them that they are great, pleasing in God’s sight, welcomed by the Lord of the banquet himself. The dust which was once a sign of our mortality becomes for us a sign of our new life, our salvation. We’re washed, not simply to be made clean, but to be made ready for the celebration of the Great Thanksgiving, the great feast, the great reunion between Creation and Creator.
The new commandment, that we love one another, it’s the summary of these two events. It tells us how to take the gifts that are given to us in the meal, and in the washing, and how to turn them back on the world. We are washed and we are fed by the Lord, but not just for our own sakes, for the sake of the world around us. We are fed so that we might feed others. We are washed so that we might wash others. We are loved so that we might love others.
Imagine that love: a throne abandoned, a life given, a world forgiven. Amen.