Today I have to wash the feet of 12 Local Preachers. I guess the imagery is that of Jesus washing the feet of the twelve disciples. Easter feels to me like a pageant where the show is the same every year, but the players behind the mask may be different.
In my culture, the washing of feet at Easter is intended to be time when we acknowledge and participate in the humility of Jesus by washing each other's feet. None of us 'play Jesus', because Jesus is there himself, although unseen.
In the cultural context where I am working it seems to be interpreted differently. 12 preachers are chosen for Good Friday. There are two Good Friday services in this section, so that means 24 preachers are chosen. There are nearly 150 preachers altogether, so being chosen is quite an honour. It is therefore an honour to be one of the chosen 12 and to have one's feet washed. While the disciples, particularly Peter, were distraught at having Jesus wash their feet, in this culture it now becomes an expression of being 'chosen' and in a sense one of the 'elite'.
I, of course, as the designated 'Jesus', have no choice as to whether I will wash feet or not. I won't wash their feet out of humility or even many of the other things that Jesus probably felt, but because I am forced to. Because I am afraid to offend the culture. Because there is no possibility of ever doing the foot-washing any other way.
But I get a chance to speak. And I will humble myself to their culture even though it is in some ways offensive to me. So that I can speak. So that I can just explain that as Jesus washed his disciples' feet he expects us to serve others. And that Jesus is still present and is willing to wash our feet. And that he reaches out as a living presence that transcends every attempt to explain him by legalism.
[And then, of course, there is the interesting aside that I, as a white woman, will be washing the feet of twelve black men (probably men). That will introduce some interesting cultural conflict and questioning for them too!]