The Towel and Basin
A common gift when someone is ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church is a chalice and paten (a communion set, in other words). The staff gave one to Colin last summer, for example. It is a reminder that as an elder one is ordained to administer the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
When one is ordained a deacon, however, as Alice is, a common gift is a towel and basin. The towel and basin are symbols of service, a reminder of the towel and basin that Jesus used to wash the disciples’ feet on the night before his death (see John 13:1-16). Deacons are ordained to ministries of service to the church and the world.
[As an aside, you may find it interesting to know that back in the “old days” William and I were ordained deacons before we were ordained elders. So, he and I, and those of our generation, carry both sets of orders and both responsibilities. But, I digress.]
I was thinking of that this week as I was preparing for Sunday. This week on our discipleship journey, we will be discussing what it means that disciples of Jesus are servants – to one another and to the world. That’s obvious when it comes to the ordained, but is it as obvious for the ministry of all the baptized? I wonder.
Then, I began to reflect on what we give people when they “join” the church. If you come to us by transfer from another church, we give you a copy of Three Simple Rules, a recent interpretation of the General Rules of the Methodist movement (altogether now, the rules are: do no harm; do good; stay in love with God). There is implied in the second rule, especially, a service command. Do we make that clear enough?
If you join by confirmation and profession of faith, we give you a certificate…and a cross. The latter should clearly communicate that there is a serving to be done as a follower of Jesus. But I’m not so sure.
Perhaps we should give everyone, and not just deacons, a towel and basin when they step up and say they want to follow Jesus. I don’t know. Join us Sunday and we’ll talk about it.
Grace and peace. rcf