“Jesus: A Leader from the Servant Class”
Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
I hope somebody remembered to warm the water up a little this year. Last year it was cold!
We do this foot-washing service every year, the Thursday before Easter, in memory of Jesus doing the same thing for his disciples just before he died. Some of you feel funny about it, some of you like it, and some of you like it quite a bit—free foot massages from the bishop! So before anybody gets too worked up, I’m going to remind you: nobody HAS to do this, everybody is invited if you want it, and don’t worry about what your feet look like. If you’re feeling worried about that, just remember that Jesus’ feet were pretty damn filthy and beat up from walking through the desert in sandals all day. So yours are probably a lot better looking no matter what shape they’re in.
We do this every year to remember and to practice a little bit, in a hands on way, the way Jesus calls us to serve each other. You hear people call Jesus a servant-leader because of the way he showed leadership—by drawing in people who were suffering and left out, by taking care of sick people and hungry people, by remembering people in jail, by lifting up the importance of children and women in a society that didn’t value them. And it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t do this as a high and mighty ruler. He did it as a poor person himself, from a little poor fishing town, where the government was pretty corrupt and not on the side of struggling people. So he was also a servant-leader because he was a leader who came from a class of folks who were considered servants rather than masters, workers rather than bosses, farmers and fishers instead of kings and generals. He was a leader from the bottom instead of a leader from the top, and he worked to make change and make the world more fair and more hopeful from the bottom up.
Most of you know we just started a farm: Harbor Roots Farm! It’s something a lot of us have been dreaming about for a long time now—a way to create a few decent jobs for local people that really gives back to this community instead of just using up the land and the people, taking all the money and the good stuff, and walking away. We’re growing fresh veggies to sell, so that we can pay our farmers, but we’re also looking to grow extra for local people who can’t afford to pay. And we’re working to make sure in all of this that we do everything in a way that really respects and cares for the land for the long haul. So no dumping a bunch of poison pesticides on our stuff, that makes the people, the land, the plants and the water all sick. The Jewish law, the tradition that Jesus came out of, teaches very clearly that when you farm you’ve got to do all these things: pay the workers a fair wage, leave aside a portion of your crop for people who are in need, and work the land in a way that doesn’t destroy it.
We’ve hired three farmers: Nita, James and Donny. Hannah’s going to be farming alongside them, too, in addition to figuring out stuff like fundraising and where to sell the crop. We’re going to do a special blessing over our farmers today in just a minute because these four, each in their own way, really demonstrate the kind of leadership Jesus was trying teach. They’ve done it in their own lives caring for their families, for their children, for people who are homeless, and working to make positive change right here in Grays Harbor County—even while going through hard times in their own lives. Now they’re taking that servant-leadership a step further by coming to work for us on this farm, growing food for hungry people in addition to earning their own wages. Each of these four farmers care about fairness, about respect and dignity for all people, and they’ll each be working their tails off to make that real—not just for themselves but for our whole community.
So let’s give thanks for these strong servant-leaders. Nita, Donny, James and Hannah—come on up here and let’s have the bishop, Rev. Sarah, and anyone else who wants to come lay hands on them for a blessing.