Posted by: rogermitchell | March 27, 2010

kenarchy and John 13

This passage of scripture is central to what I mean by kenarchy. As the author puts it “Jesus knowing that his hour had come that he would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (v1). And again “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside his garments; and taking a towel, he girded himself. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded” (3-5). The implications of this for understanding the nature of God’s power are huge. The full expression of divine power, love that’s “to the end” and the manifestation of God’s “all things,” lies in the practical gesture of washing feet. Not the religious sacramental acts that it has now sometimes acquired but the practical, culturally normal taken-for-granted female slave’s job of cleaning the dirt of the road from the feet of a guest on arrival at a meal. The ontological and theopolitical implications of this are extraordinary. When Jesus could have done anything, had the fullness of divine power in his hands, this is what he did. This, from the Johannine perspective, is the way that God’s authority works, the full manifestation of divine love soon to be fulfilled in the cross. The cross was apparently no less and no more than the outworking of this unveiling of divine power. An act of cosmic corporate foot washing. Having allowed the Almighty to do this for us we are called to do the same for others. Christian discipleship, being the ecclesia, God’s politics,  kenarchy, call it what you will is behaving like this. I’m looking for examples of this from contemporary culture: what does the foot washing way of the cross outworking of divine power look like in our sociopolitical context? Comments please!



  1. What comes to mind when you ask that question is “cleaning the loos”

  2. Ha! I thought the same as Joanna, but even worse is picking up someone else’s dog poo from the road or the park!

  3. I was once asked by another church leader to pray for him. He had been in full time minsitry far longer than me; had seen things I had never seen; had prayed for and seen the sick healed in a way I never had (or have not still). He was a great speaker and a great leader. So in many ways he was humble in asking me to pray for him. Except … he approached the subject like this, ‘God has told me to humble myself and ask you to pray for me’. With those words the humilty shot out of the window!

    Its not so much what Jesus did that is important here, but how he did it. There was no preamble about humility, no explaining why he was doing it in the context of upside down kingdom authority. He just got on with a job that needed doing.

    And I agree with you that by today we’ve made foot washing into a sacramental rite that has ‘look how humble I am’ written all over it.

    Don’t have any pratical suggestions, Roger, just a sense that it’s not the what but the how.


  4. Oh I love it Dyfed – the old ‘admire my righteousness and humilty’ angle. We humans can pervert anything it seems. c.

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