The Common Good

Take Up Your Towel and Follow Jesus

Someone beloved to me is suffering from a horrific disease right now. If I could fight this disease with a sword all my pacifist tendencies would run screaming for the hills and I would take up that sword and I would fight. Just the thought raises a rage up within me that is passionately intense and I long for such a sword.  

Image by Jorg Hackemann /Shutterstock
Image by Jorg Hackemann /Shutterstock

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I can’t help but think that Jesus must have felt some of this, human as he was. Because of who he was and what he did the poor and the outcast and the sick were drawn to him and so he saw suffering every day. He healed and he taught and he called for others to follow him, yet the suffering still was all around. Some part of his humanity must have wanted to take up a sword and fight it. Yet he knew that violence was not the answer.

There was another way.

So instead of a sword, he took up... a towel and filled a basin with water. Washing the feet of his followers, an act of loving service, he called them to do the same.

In the midst of such thoughts I took a walk by the river. With our recent drought, the river has been mostly dry for almost a year now. A very blessed rain came upon us earlier in the day and so as I walked toward the river I could hear the sound of running water. It was such a welcome sound that it stirred a longing within me so that even though my questioning and pondering of late has left me unsure what it means to pray, yet in that moment I understood that I do not know how to not pray. So, I prayed:

God, let your grace wash over me so that I can find some peace in my soul. Your kingdom is not yet fully realized and so this life still hurts way too much to find total peace. Yet fill me somehow with peace enough so that I can take up that towel with determination that I will fill that basin, with my own tears if I must, but somehow 

I will wash your children’s feet. 

I will serve.

I will love.

This is the only way of hope. This is the only way to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Love is the only way.

It is time to take up our towels and follow Jesus.

Sheri Ellwood is a mom, wife, farmer/rancher, and former Lutheran pastor. She lives in Kansas and blogs at with her sister-in-law, Lynn Schlosser who is a Mennonite pastor.

(Feet image by Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock)

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