Perhaps you have done something like this. The United Church of Christ pastor Jeremy Marshall was at Vacation Bible School when a he and a kid in his class got into an argument.  The classmate figured out a way to embarrass Jeremy in front of their friends.  He pointed at Jeremey and told everyone “Jeremy is Walter’s best friend.” Things got awkwardly quiet.  Everybody was staring at Jeremy. Walter – that’s not his real name – was, unfortunately, the class outcast.  He had a mild speech impediment.  He was way too interested in taxidermy.  His personal hygiene was questionable.  And – in fact – Jeremy was Walter’s best friend.  He was probably Walter’s only friend. It wasn’t cool to be friends with Walter, so Jeremy tried to keep things quiet.  Somehow though, this other kid found out, and he picked this moment to put Jeremy on the spot in front. Jeremy says he was worried that if he claimed Walter all his other friends would ditch him.  So, he denied being friends with Walter.  Announced loudly he had never been friends with him. He even called Walter the mean name the kids at school call him. Jeremy says, later, as he ate his sugar cookies and drank grape Kool-aide, he was sure he could hear a rooster crowing.  Even if Walter never found out, Jeremy knew Jesus knew what he had done. He had bailed on his friend Walter the same way Peter bailed on Jesus. Jeremy Marshall still feels bad about what his 10-year-old self did.  He also assumes all of us have done something like it. We’ve...

I served a church where the Associate Pastor was given the responsibility of putting together the Maundy Thursday service. Tom was passionate about including a foot washing as part of the service. That made a lot of sense, as this passage from the gospel of John takes place at the Passover Meal, the Thursday before Jesus’ death. Tom originally wanted to wash the feet of the twelve members of the governing council of that congregation. He made the calls to every single person. One by one they turned him down. All except two of them. So, that Maundy Thursday, as the darkness gathered in a chilly sanctuary, two people sat in folding chairs nervously facing their congregation. There were only four feet to be taken care of but as the congregation looked on – feeling empathically awkward – that foot washing seemed to take forever. Not all of us want Jesus to wash our feet. Maybe like Simon Peter, we are confused by the whole thing. “Washing feet …is that a symbol? Then Jesus wash all of me!” Plenty of us can get so caught up in a ritual or symbol or piece of scripture that we just about wring all meaning and sense out of it. For more us, sitting here in church, the problem is – like it was for those elders Tom and I knew – simple embarrassment about our feet.  All our feet started out cute and pudgy, ready to be tickled, but they can take a beating through the years. Not even a good pedicure or a trip to the chiropodist is going to make...