Guided meditation: Jesus washes his disciples’ feet

A guided meditation. (Listen.)

Tonight, we are not physically gathered in a room. We cannot pass the peace with hug or handshake; we cannot wash each other’s feet. But our imaginations are not confined. So tonight, allow me to lead you in a guided meditation, and just as our Lord reaches out to us, let us meet one another in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

But first, let’s prepare. Attend to your body. Uncross your legs; relax your shoulders; allow your body to open. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

Quieten your mind. As you are able, let the words of the meditation move through your mind, along your spine, and into the earth. Let your thoughts and worries drift away. As new thoughts come—tangled as they are with joy or pain—hold them gently, and then set them aside to heal. Breathe.

Open your heart. Vulnerability means ‘able to be wounded.’ Resistance to being vulnerable is natural, normal: so just take a moment to notice it. Now with sacred breath, push open the gates. In your mind’s eye, look to the One who gazes at you with infinite warmth and affection. Breathe.

Now allow yourself to be in the presence of Jesus in the upper room. Imagine yourself at the table.

  • What food has been laid out? With whom are you sitting? Are you near or far from Jesus?
  • What is the mood of the room: Relaxed? Jovial? Tense? Subdued? How do you feel?

Now imagine Jesus is rising from the table.

  • Can you sense what is happening in his heart as he stands? How does he feel? Does he want to serve?

As you watch, Jesus strips to the waist, laying aside his outer garments.

  • What else might he be removing in preparation for this act of intimacy and loving service?
  • What do you feel as he ties the towel and pours the water? What is moving in his heart?

To love is to extend oneself for the good of the other. To love is to say with our lips and our bodies: You take precedence.

  • As Jesus kneels before you, what do you feel?
  • Is it easy to say yes and remove the shoes from your feet? Or is something blocking you? If something is blocking you, what is it?
  • Tell Jesus how it feels to receive his loving service.

As Jesus pours the water, sense it running over your feet.

  • What is Jesus washing away?
  • What do his hands feel like on your feet?
  • What are you receiving from Jesus in this moment?

Genuine love means “care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as open and honest communication.” Genuine love, the self-giving love that Jesus offers us and calls forth from us, expresses itself in service. Reaching toward the other, for the good of the other. Such service does not create debtors, but partners. We are no longer locked in an economy of exchange; we are not servants, but friends. This is what loving us “to the end” means: Jesus loves us into friendship.

  • Who in your life has loved you into friendship?
  • What is it like to be the recipient of such a love?
  • What does such love make possible in you?

If we were physically gathered in the church tonight, we would have the opportunity to wash one another’s feet. You would be invited to sit in a chair and to wait, unable to choose who serves you. So let the room of your imagination become the church. In your mind’s eye, look around.

  • Which chair are you sitting in? Who is next to you? Who else is in this space? Who’s missing?
  • Now wonder: Whose feet are you going to wash? What are you hoping they will receive from your washing of their feet?
  • Who do you imagine coming to wash your feet?
  • Who are you hoping does not come to serve you? Why? What needs to be addressed between you? Can you let go of that resistance—can you hold it gently, set it aside to heal—and can you accept that person’s loving service?

Speak with Jesus in your heart. Tell him how you feel about being served, or about kneeling at the feet of another. If you noticed obstacles to serving or to being served, tell him about it. Speak to him as a trusted friend, an equal: then fall silent. Notice any word or phrase or image which bubbles up. What might it be saying to you?

Our time is drawing to a close. Take a breath, savour God’s loving presence, and let us pray:

Uncovered Jesus:
You washed the feet of your friends
with your hands.
We do not know what to do
with this kind of love
or this kind of power,
so we enact it just once a year:
and this year, we cannot even do that.
May we find new ways to embody it
every month; every day;
every hour; every encounter.
Because this is how you chose
to show love and power
to your friends. Amen. Ω

A reflection on John 13:2b-17, 31b-35 by Alison Sampson given to Sanctuary on 14 April 2022 (Year C Maundy Thursday) © Sanctuary 2022. Very lightly adapted from including thoughts and phrases from Nathan Nettleton from South Yarra Community Baptist Church. On love quoting bell hooks, All About Love. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Final prayer by Pádraig Ó Tuama, found in Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Norwich: Canterbury, 2017 (tweaked). Image shows Jesus Washes an Apostle’s Feet, by Laurie Olsen Lisonbee, 2006.


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