My Lent devotional this year has been A Way Other than Our Own, by Walter Bruegemann. There are several quotes throughout the book worth pondering, but here’s what he says about Maundy Thursday that has me thinking today:
“The drama of the towel provided an example for the disciples to replicate:
- Replicate the truth that you have come from God; you are not on your own.
- Replicate that the truth that you will go to God; your future is assured.
- Replicate that the space between you and others is filled with a towel.
- Replicate that as you travel with towel and basin, you will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety” (p.88)
What do I make of this image of the space between me and others being filled with a towel? The towel is the symbol of vulnerability and humility. If the space between me and others is filled with a towel, we are open to that vulnerability–both in ourselves and in the other. We are mutually serving each other…at each other’s feet.
That means not only am I serving my neighbor, but I am open to being served by my neighbor.
Deaconesses (and others) use this image of basin and towel to describe our call to the world. We receive a basin and towel at our Consecration service. So I can intellectualize and spiritualize this ritual with the best of them. But, personally, I am all too aware at how easy it is to keep distance between me and others that is not filled with the towel of service and vulnerability, but is filled instead with fear, criticism, and self-protection.
So what would difference would it make to see the space filled with a towel?
I imagine it would make quite a difference.
As Bruegemann says, as we travel with towel and basin, we will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety.
Safe. Treasured. Free.
Yep. I imagine it would make quite a difference.