Earlier in my writing career, I spent two years ghostwriting books for television evangelists. No, most famous personalities don’t write the books they “author.” They simply don’t have the time nor are they likely to be adept at speaking, running a large-scale ministry, and writing. Usually, the publisher sent me a bunch of sermon transcripts with the charge, “Make it into a book.”
I chuckle when I consider that I only met one of the eight or nine men who contracted me to write their books. But I digress…
On one of my ghostwriting projects, I became increasingly upset over the sloppy theology and downright heresy that the man was professing from the pulpit. My integrity wouldn’t allow me to include some of his core material. I wanted to quit the project but I needed the money. In fact, despite being fairly busy as a fulltime writer, all of my publishers were paying me extremely late. So time was ticking as my bank account was being quickly depleted to nothing.
One afternoon my wife came down to my office and announced, “Mike, in two days we’re going to have an automatic withdrawal come out of our bank account. If we don’t deposit some money SOON, we’re going to bounce checks everywhere.”
Ever been there?
So that afternoon I called this televangelist’s ministry. “Umm,” I stuttered. “I apologize for making this request, but I’m in a financial bind. Is there any way you could pay me early…and send my check overnight?” This is a definite no-no in the publishing industry.
“Not a problem,” the voice on the end responded without hesitation. The next day, my check arrived and our financial crisis was averted.
Immediately, my attitude toward the televangelist changed. Although he still needed me to pull him out of his heretical holes, the graciousness of this ministry changed my attitude toward them.
It’s funny. Although I share little in common with the man’s beliefs, I’d consider writing another book for him—just because he washed my feet.
If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, please join me in this weekend’s Bible conversation.
2 Samuel 1:1-3:39
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Samuel 1:1-3:39. It’s ironic that the man delivering news about Saul’s death happened to be an Amalekite—since David had just rescued his family from the Amalekites. The man was probably lying in order to get on David’s good side, but his poor decision resulted in his death (David didn’t know that Saul had already fallen on his sword and died). Since the nameless man was a resident alien in Israel, his act would have been perceived as insurrection. Had David allowed the man to live, it could have been perceived by the rest of Israel as support for the assassination.
After Saul’s death, David was named king…of Judah. That was the tribe he came from, which explains why they were the only ones to follow him.
David’s special message to the city of Jabesh Gilead is mentioned because the city had strong links to Saul (1 Samuel 11; 31:11-13).
In chapter 3, we read about David demanding that King Ish-Bosheth of Israel return Michal to him. If you remember, she was the prize King Saul awarded David (but never married) for defeating Goliath. However, in a fit of anger, Saul gave her to Paltiel (1 Samuel 25:44). But in order to have her returned, she had to be taken away from her husband. This is an extremely sad story because Paltiel truly loved his wife.
So why would David want Michal? It was a link to Saul’s family, giving him a right as Saul’s successor to the throne. What I can’t understand is, why would Ish-Bosheth cooperate?
John 12:20-13:30. Jesus makes clear his reason for coming to earth: to glorify his father. Although the word is bantered around quite a bit in Christian circles, I think it’s beneficial to look at what the word means. According to my various Greek dictionaries, “glorify” means “to honor, bestow honor upon, exalt in dignity, render glorious.”
In the midst of this, we read an interesting statement in John 12:42-43:
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Jesus]. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
Here is where knowing a little Greek can be more than a little fun. The word “praise” in this passage is basically the same Greek word as “glorify.” So, John is saying that Jesus came to glorify God, and in the same way, our calling as followers of Jesus is to live in the pursuit of God glorifying us.
Sounds almost heretical, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
Psalm 118:19-119:16. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s an acrostic poem, meaning every stanza begins with a successive letter from the Hebrew alphabet. In this case, the psalm is broken into 23 sections (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). Each stanza or verse within the section begins with its representative letter.
While reading through this psalm, it quickly becomes apparent that the psalmist loves the word of God and the laws of God. Rather than ink on a scroll or meaningless actions, life in the word is full of life.
If anything, this psalm gives meaning to our daily Bible conversation.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
I was a little nervous. For the first time in my life, I was participating in a foot-washing service. Everyone at church showed up and said very little. Then the men and women formed separate groups and proceeded to their separate rooms. What’s the big deal about separating the men from the women? I asked myself. I soon discovered why.
From our group of 12-14 men, we divided into pairs and grabbed a pail of lukewarm water and a chair. My partner offered to wash my feet first.
Taking off my shoes I realized the deep intimacy of this experience. Adding to the awkwardness of the moment, I found out that everyone else had washed their feet before arriving to prevent their fellow foot washers from being overwhelmed by the experience. Unfortunately, no one had informed me of the practice.
So there I sat in my chair while this gracious man began washing the pungent odor from my feet. He didn’t lightly touch them—he held them in his hands and washed them! No wonder Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. The experience is equally humbling for both the wash-er and the wash-ee.
After the man finished, he gently wiped my feet with a cloth and then traded places with me.
I was thankful that I went second, because had I gone first, I would have barely touched the man’s feet. Instead, I knelt on my knees, grabbed his feet with both hands and washed them better than I had ever washed my own. We still weren’t saying a word, but by now the awkwardness was gone. When I finished, I wiped the man’s feet with a cloth, which naturally led to a hug.
This man’s initial act of humility broke down a barrier between the two of us. Although we hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on certain things before our foot washing ceremony, I began seeing him with new eyes.
When Jesus knelt down and washed his disciple’s feet and told them to do likewise, he gave them a secret to winning the hearts of the whole world.
By entering the world of the people around us and serving them, we show them the full extent of our love—and the love of God.
And isn’t that what Jesus did for us?
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- From your reading, what is your impression of Abner? What can you learn from him?
- Have you ever literally washed a person’s feet? Has anyone ever washed your feet? What thoughts, impressions, and insights did the experience give you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.
4 responses to “An Awkward, Endearing Experience”
There is also a sense of the word glorify that means to resemble or look like, to positively reflect back upon the person. It was used that way especially when regarding God or a king. So, the moon glorifies the sun. Therefore, when we glorify God we resemble him here on earth.
You are right about foot washing. It is an intense and intimate ceremony.
I was reminded of how I once felt toward Ted Haggard after his scandal a few years ago. I thought he was a cad and just another disgraced evangelist living a double life. Then I saw he and his wife interviewed on Oprah and that experience changed forever how I viewed him from that moment on. I can usually sniff out hypocrisy and insincerity quicker than most and as I watched him I realized my normally accurate ‘B.S.’ radar wasn’t even registering a signal. No the man is far from perfect, as we all are, but his new transparent, humble, and contrite spirit was reflected in how Jesus described the woman who washed his feet with her tears, ‘The one who has been forgiven much, loves much……’.
Interesting, Carri. I may be a bit jaded and judgmental but my B.S. meter (actually it was a “self-delusion” meter) for both he and his wife went off the charts.
I hope you are right.
I haven’t washed feet in a long time. You are right, it is a very humbling, intimate experience. Now I try to practice feet washing in a symbolic way, but there is no substitute for the real thing.