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  • Ellen Romer Niemiec

Flip

We were greeters at our own wedding. When I first talked about it with my parents, they weren’t thrilled. The bride and groom don’t greet! It would be weird. We wouldn’t start on time. But we stuck to it, not telling anyone ahead of time. The faces on our loved ones as they came in were beautiful, surprised and delighted. It was an authentically joyful beginning to our life together. My parents now look back at that as one of the most memorable parts of our wedding.


The bride and groom are not ‘supposed’ to greet, though, right? No one was supposed to see my dress. We are supposed to be received by those gathered for us. We flipped the roles. Instead of satisfying a requirement of etiquette, we wanted everyone to know how glad we truly were to have them there. Flipping the expectations gave us a chance to not just share our love for each other, but to share our love for the people in our lives.


Today we remember Jesus flipping the script. Celebrating Passover had a lot of expectations. Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples feet was not of them. We are told that Jesus was fully aware that “the Father had put everything into his power.” With that power, with that awareness, he decided to kneel. His own feet had been anointed. He had been shown love and tenderness. There are a thousand ways to show love, and chose to do so from a place of humility. He makes it very clear that it is because he is Master and Teacher that he washes their feet. It is not merely an exception and a one-time occurrence. This is what it means to love. To have all the power in the world and to choose to serve and to love the parts of us that are not always the most appealing. Power is not an invitation to subjugate but to serve. And this is how he expects them - and us - to use what is given to us. To kneel in front of the people of God instead of stand over them.


Flipping roles can make us so uncomfortable.My parents were very reluctant when it came to us greeting guests at our wedding.When what we know changes, it can be difficult to know what to expect. Peter clearly does not handle it very well, first telling Jesus that he will never let him wash his feet, and then to wash his hands and head as well. It can be awkward to let someone we love and cherish see a part of us that is pretty gross. Parts of us that are worn, calloused, dirty and might even sport a wart or two. And Jesus flips over the idea that something seemingly unclean is to be avoided. Instead he draws near, bringing himself close to care for it lovingly.


Brides and grooms should not greet. Master’s are not supposed to wash feet. Life does not overcome death. God will flip everything on its head.


Where might we be invited to kneel instead of stand? Where might we live into the uncomfortable invitation to be loved and served?


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