By Cynthia Weems
First UMC, Miami, FL
First, read John 13:12-14
Today, as you read this email, there are homeless men and women beginning to form a line outside of First United Methodist Church of Miami. Today, March 7, the church will offer its 23rd Annual Footwashing for the Homeless. I would invite you during this time of devotion to offer a prayer for all of those waiting in line, and all who will serve on this day.
The Footwashing began small, as a Maundy Thursday remembrance of the act of Jesus described in our scripture for today. A few church members invited the homeless, with whom the church had an ongoing breakfast ministry, to gather and be fed by this humble and significant act. Over the years, the event grew and now serves over 300 homeless each spring.
With shoes donated from Soles 4 Souls, Running With Sole, and various other organizations, the Footwashing seeks to care for the feet as well as the hearts of Miami’s most vulnerable. As they enter the church courtyard, each takes a seat at a Footwashing station where a volunteer washes their feet. A “shoe runner” takes their name and shoe size and runs to go get a new pair of shoes and socks for them.
After this, they wait for a podiatry student from Barry University (another great partner with us) to examine their feet and apply creams or ointments as needed. Lastly, they put their new shoes on and head to the courtyard for lunch. The event requires over one hundred volunteers, and many hours of preparation. Yet, for our downtown church, it is the soul of our own spiritual grounding throughout the year.
One year, when I was serving as a foot washer, a gentleman came and sat across from me. Our shoe runner asked his name and shoe size. He said his name was Joe and his size was an 11. The shoe runner left to go find shoes for Joe. As he did, Joe leaned over to me and whispered, “I’m not really an 11, I’m a 10. But my son is an 11, and these are for him.” He then went on to explain that his son runs high school track at Booker T. Washington High. His son was fast, Joe said. But he didn’t have any shoes. Joe wanted his shoes to go to his son, because track season was right around the corner. Needless to say, Joe left that day with a size 11 and a size 10!
When the homeless ask, “Why do you do this?” (and they always ask), the only proper answer that ever comes to my lips is that Jesus did it, and asked us to do the same. Jesus washed the feet of his dear friends as a sign of love and respect. So we, too, offer this gesture because we love and respect our homeless sisters and brothers.
Prayer: O God, we pray for each man and woman that stands in line today to receive a clean start, and a new pair of shoes. Lord, we pray for the inequality in our world and ask for your justice to be made known. Change our hearts, Lord, as we seek to serve you as Jesus asked us to do. Amen.
What do you make of Jesus’ practice of washing the feet of the disciples?
In what ways have you “washed the feet” of others by offering acts of love and respect?
In what ways have you humbly allowed yourself to receive an act of love and respect by another?