“Jesus wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel”
Who would you be happy to share a towel with?
There’s a lovely depiction of Peter in Ford Madox Brown’s painting, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet that shows him looking seriously shocked at the idea. The original viewers were also shocked – Jesus was originally shown half-naked, and his robe added later.
But towels are actually very useful. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for instance has a few things to say on the subject of towels…
"A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can wrap it round your head to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. And any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
More seriously (I suppose): the towel is a central sign of what Christian life and ministry is all about. The deacon’s stole started life as a towel over a waiter’s shoulder. But the towel does not speak just to ordained ministers. It is a sign for all who bear name of Christ that they must always be becoming more like Christ, which means a close-up personal bending to, serving, sharing relationship with God, their fellow-Christians, and all God’s world
As Holy Week reaches its climax, there is no better time to engage with God on a serious spiritual journey. As we wash each others’ feet there is no better time to engage personally with each other. And as we open our doors and our hearts to the whole community at Easter we face the challenge to welcome them ‘just as they are’, washed, or not.