Service. Not as in ‘church service’. More like as in ‘servant’. I’ll not be washing anyone’s feet tonight. I’ll not be stripping the altar of a church, though I’ll be stripping my own small personal altar in my bedroom. Earlier today I renewed my ordination vows along with my colleagues. But what I will be doing this evening, from roughly four in the afternoon (about an hour from now) until nearly nine in the evening, I’ll cook for my twelve housemates. Not all of them will show up for dinner, I know that in advance, but I cook for all twelve nonetheless, as I make up plates for those who are missing, and ensure some leftovers for those who are not fasting tomorrow (that would be everyone but myself–this is not a religiously based cooperative living outfit I’m a part of).
And so, as I realized my faux pas during communion earlier today (oops, I signed up to cook on Maundy Thursday), I thought, ‘yeah, this is kinda like footwashing.’
And here’s why. I live in a commune. We do things for each other because we recognize that our common lives are inextricably linked. One of the things we do for each other is cook dinner. Six meals a week are cooked by someone in the house and we are on roughly a two week schedule. So, yes, I only have to cook dinner once a fortnight. That’s the exciting part. And nearly every day I can come home from work just in time for the dinner gong to ring at seven in the evening, and I can sit down with a group of wonderful people and eat tasty, nutritious, filling food that was made from scratch from mostly locally produced organic ingredients. There is no bad, here. And then when ever it is we are done, we wash our individual dishes and leave.
That was the part that stymied me when I first was introduced to the House. The cook doesn’t want help cleaning up, and when it’s your turn, you’re not going to get help cleaning up unless you specifically ask for it, and then it’s more like asking a favor. Why? Well, partly it’s tradition. And partly, it’s the service we perform for our friends and guests as a part of honoring our common life together. No one is too good to cook, and no one can get out of it by performing other, say administrative chores.
A little like washing the feet of your guests and friends.