Alright, so I’ve been sitting on this footwashing thing for awhile. Why? Because it’s not an easy question. Even though a number of small Baptist groups, Brethren churches, and a number of the Pentecostal churches observe Footwashing as the third ordinance or sacrament, the reality is that through much of Church history, it has not been regarded as a one by most of the Church. It’s never gone out of practice, however, and many liturgical traditions observe footwashing in some way on Maundy Thursday or, as in the early centuries of Christian practice, at baptism. So what’s someone who is both Pentecostal and Anglican to do?
The Gospel of John’s an interesting take because, unlike the other Gospels, John does not record for us the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He has the most content of what Jesus said at the supper of all the Gospels, but he doesn’t give the command about the Eucharist. But he does provide the only account of the Lord washing the feet of the disciples. The question is, does John give us this story instead of the institution of the Lord’s Supper?
People far wiser and educated and more thoughtful than I have given that question a lot of consideration and I’m not sure that there’s any clear consensus (feel free to correct me, scholars). Some will cite Tertullian, or Augustine, or early synods that seem to assume the practice. But everyone has to tangle with the fact that no binding “formularies” (creeds, councils, confessions, articles of religion) hold footwashing as one of the sacraments of the Church. Some Brethren scholars make a compelling case to see it as sacrament, however.
But I don’t want this to be a scholarly argument. I don’t know the answer to the question. I know I want footwashing to be a sacrament practiced in the Church. I also want to not cause those kind of waves! Our Pentecostal forefathers and foremothers found great joy and fellowship with Christ in this rite. They experienced the fellowship of the Spirit and a strengthening for their Christian lives that complemented the Lord’s Supper. They knew that Jesus was there in that service.
When I read John 13, and hear Jesus say, “Just as I have done for you, you ought to do for one another” I can’t help but think that he meant it just as he said it. It’s not popular or glitzy and you can’t dress it up as fancy as baptism or the Lord’s Supper can be. But there’s something to it. There’s something of the presence of Jesus there that is more like Baptism and the Eucharist than not.
What do you think? Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences!
- Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
- Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
- Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing