Ordination Sermon for Hank Malone
St. John’s Lutheran Church Salt Lake City Utah.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:14-17)
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
I honestly don’t know. Would you like to show us your feet Hank?
Feet, generally not considered the most beautiful things in the world. They tend to get covered up in footwear. When they are exposed to the light to be seen, well then you see sweaty, blistered, calloused and gnarled flesh, with hair growing out the toe knuckles, toe jam coats the webbing. How beautiful the feet. Yes. Beautiful well travelled feet. The kind that at this writing would be greeted by a footbath at the end of a long journey. So beautiful that the task of washing them was given to young slave girls, the lowest in the house. And John the Baptist greets those beautiful feet saying that he is unworthy to untie the sandals of such beautiful feet. Unworthy to take on the job of a lowly slave girl, and wash those feet the sore tortured feet of a wondering pilgrim who has made his way down to the banks of the Jordan in the midst of wilderness under the desert sun of the Qumran. Beautiful feet wading into a river awash with the sins of God’s people confessed to a man whose breath smelled of locusts and wild honey, wading into that river that those feet could comfort your souls as they bore your sins, the cross he would carry from there to Golgotha. And no, John would not wash those beautiful feet. They would be washed with the tears of a prostitute, a sinner who knew the beauty of those ugly feet. Ugly feet made beautiful with the piercing of a nail, a nail hammered through the dirty, tortured and gnarled blistered feet.
How beautiful the feet of those who preach good news! Yes, beautiful feet washed in the tears of a prostitute, beautiful feet that carry our Lord to the cross, tortured feet that carry the gospel that your feet would be washed. That your feet would be washed. Yes, the irony of it all. John did not consider himself worthy enough to do what a prostitute did, but that man who could not have his feet washed by he who was the best man born of a woman by our own Lord’s admission, he would wash the feet of his disciples, he would come to wash your feet, because he who has been washed, does not need to be washed again but only his feet. And how does he wash your feet?
When John tells the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, he tells it in place of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. We were washed in baptism, and those who have bathed, have been baptized do not need to wash except for their feet. Their feet, tortured and sore, and Jesus washes them the dusty and dirty feet, pouring the warm water over them, softly caressing them, massaging them with perfumed ointment, aloe and nard. You get the picture. When he is done with the good news, it’s your feet, your souls that are beautiful. Bathed and sanctified in the washing of the water with the word, He continues to wash and sanctify your feet week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday with his body and blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. This is what you have, this is what he provides for you through those he sends, those he apostles with the gospel, the evangelizon, the good news. This is Pastor Malone’s job, he is the one apostled to you now, sent to you with the good news, given the beautiful feet of our Lord to carry his good news.
How beautiful the feet? Beautiful indeed. Make no mistake, his feet will be tortured and sore. His feet will be tired, blistered, calloused and broken, sweaty and stinky and encrusted with road dust. Because these are the feet that will carry the good news to you, these are the feet that will be burdened with your sins, the cross he will bear in sleepless nights of prayer, anguishing for your soul, as you let the cares of the world grow up like tares that choke up the wheat, and miss church for three months straight because your son has a soccer game. These are the feet that will carry him to your bedside in the hospital, the feet that will carry him to the scene of roadside accidents, the feet that will carry him to nursing homes and hospice to lead you in the Commendation of the Dying as your grandma, your dad, your son or daughter in law lie there choking for air in the throes of death. And then you will realize how beautiful the ugly tortured feet that come to wash your feet, to caress them with the gospel, massage them with aloe and deliver a clean conscience and a good heart from which love flows freely in the forgiveness of sins, and tortured souls are healed. How beautiful the feet? As beautiful as the gospel they bear, the gospel that brings the words of eternal life to a world of death. Yes, how beautiful the feet that bring good news.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.