Brothers and Sisters
The weather really has changed and as we get out our sandals, we also start to experience something of the dirt and the dust on our feet that would have been the daily experience of Jesus and his contemporaries. That dust, in a world where walking was the usual way around, was inevitably uncomfortable, and so the rules of hospitality involved bringing a bowl of water and a towel to wash your guests’ feet. When Jesus visits the home of Simon where his feet are washed and anointed by a woman who dries them with her hair Jesus points out that she has only done in an exaggerated way, what Simon should have done as a matter of course.
By and large, our feet remain quite clean. The roads of 21st century Britain are not as dusty as 1st century Palestine and we walk far less than our far-off ancestors. I wonder what our equivalency might be? That regular gesture of hospitality which, when offered in kindness and care shows regard for the needs of those who visit us at home or at church. Perhaps it is the regular coffee, tea and biscuits that are our equivalency, or perhaps in such weather as this, we could offer fruit juice as a refreshing alternative after church as an extra touch of hospitable thinking.
More than anything however, I would suggest that when Mary Magdalene, noticing that an act of hospitality had been omitted, made up for it with shameless generosity, she was modelling something very important. The jar of nard was often worn around a woman’s neck, added to whenever possible, developing a pension pot for future need. This was not a premeditated action perhaps, but instead a wiping out of the rudeness by treating the slighted Jesus with extra love and extra care, using what was to hand.
How wonderful to spot that something has been left out, someone has been hurt or treated with disrespect, and without saying anything to anyone else, to make up for it a thousand-fold. Next time we realise our feet are particularly grubby after a day in sandals, we might use it as a chance to reflect on how best we make sure that no-one in our church feels left out, hurt or treated with disrespect. To notice and repair the hurt is surely part of our calling as the followers of he who washed his disciples’ feet two thousand years ago.