“Sweaty Feet & Breathing Shoes” John 20:19-31 April 8, 2018
Sweat glands. They are all over our bodies, and that’s not news. In fact, there are 250,000 sweat glands on our feet alone. Yet, when thinking of how our bodies sweat, we’re not likely to think of our feet – except when we shop for athletic shoes or a good pair of walking shoes. At that point, we not only have fashion, but comfort in mind.
Our feet get hot – we know this. But I bet you didn’t know that the average foot perspires a quarter cup of liquid on a slow day, and up to one full cup is excreted on a day of “fancy footwork.” That’s why shoe companies are working diligently to develop a shoe that breathes – literally – cool shoes.
While for average people walking one mile may not even break a sweat, their feet most certainly will. The environment in their shoes will closely resemble that of a Louisiana swamp: about 94 degrees in temperature with 96 percent humidity. That’s why shoe manufacturers are now turning to “comfort technologists” who have researched various shoe linings in hopes of discovering greater breathe-ability to help avoid muggy buildup.
While the average sweaty foot in the average shoe might create serious swampland conditions, newly developed linings allowing better air circulation create conditions more akin to, say, a summer day in Memphis, Tennessee. Not great, but getting better.
You don’t think your feet generate sweat? Take off one of your shoes right now and pass it to your neighbor on the left. Take a whiff. Case closed.
No matter what kind of running or walking around we do in life, our philosophy has become this: We want no sweat. And yet many of us, despite what we say, want to maintain on some level our frantic lifestyles because we want, or feel a need to keep pace with a frantic world – the constant running around – the always moving quickly from one thing to another.
Even if we don’t want to keep pace it is hard to avoid the frantic lifestyle. Let me give you an example. I call it the “But-First” Syndrome. You’ll recognize it. We all have suffered from it on some level. The situations will be different for each of you.
For instance, the “But-First” Syndrome happens, let’s say, when you decide to do the laundry. So you start toward the laundry room, but then see the newspapers on the floor. Okay, you’ll do the laundry . . .
BUT FIRST you decide to put the newspapers away. So on your way to put the newspapers away, you notice the mail on the entry table. Okay, you’ll put the newspapers away . . .
BUT FIRST you’ll pay that bill that needs to be paid. So you look for the checkbook. Oops … there are dishes still on the table. Okay, you’ll pay the bill . . .
BUT FIRST you need to put the dishes in the sink. You head for the kitchen. Darn it, there’s the remote control for the TV. What’s it doing here? Okay, you’ll put the dishes in the sink . . .
BUT FIRST you need to put the remote away. You head for the TV room. Aaagh! You stepped on the cat. Cat needs to be fed. Okay, you’ll put the remote away . . .
BUT FIRST you need to feed the cat . . . So, here’s what happens by the end of the day:
- The laundry is not done,
- newspapers are still on the floor,
- dishes are on the table,
- bills are unpaid,
- the checkbook is still lost,
- and the cat ate the remote control.
And, when you try to figure out how come nothing got done all day, you are baffled because, well you KNOW, you were BUSY ALL DAY!!
That’s the “BUT-FIRST” Syndrome. This is what I mean by a frantic life, and we don’t want to feel it, at least in terms of sweaty feet.
All of which is relevant on this the second Sunday of Easter because there was a lot of frantic running around in those early post-resurrection hours & days. There is a whole lot of sweating going on – smelly sandals if you will.
Mary Magdalene ran hysterically to the disciples upon discovering that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Peter and the “other disciple” dutifully ran to see for themselves, with the “other disciple” (“whom Jesus loved”) beating Peter to the tomb. They returned home, no doubt sweating out the possibilities about what could have happened to the one they called “Lord.”
Mary remained weeping in the garden, breathing with difficulty. She left after realizing that Jesus was still alive and still called her by name.
Meanwhile, the men returned home, later meeting behind locked doors that evening, sweating it out again not knowing what to expect. They were wondering: What would become of them? What did Mary mean by “I have seen the Lord”?
The disciples eventually saw Jesus, too, of course, behind those closed doors. And while the words of Jesus apparently impart comfort when we repeat them in the midst of our safe and sound Easter worship services, when Jesus spoke those words on the very first Easter evening, they surely made the disciples sweat, if not quake in their sandals.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said, whereupon he immediately engaged them in a touchy-feely interactive experience. Showing them his pierced hands and bloody torso, Jesus invited them to see and touch. Not exactly an esteem building or peace building thing for the disciples. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said again. And then he talked about painful stuff like forgiveness and even more painful stuff like “retaining sins.”
A week later Jesus says again, “Peace be with you.” And since Thomas had joined them this time, Jesus made Thomas touch his seeping wounds. “Put your hand in my side,” Jesus suggested. Now, how gross is that?
So here is something to remember about your Faith.
- Faith can be a gross, sweaty, and a decidedly uncomfortable affair.
- And following Jesus may involve blood, sweat and tears.
- Therefore when we walk in faith, we may not experience nice, airy breathing.
Like Mary Magdalene, we might breathe through heaving sobs and tears of disappointments, and losses. Sure, Jesus repeats “Peace be with you” over and over again, but soothing words do not prevent the walk from being difficult. You can count on many strenuous miles – sometimes uphill, often miserable, and frequently uncomfortable. Believing in Jesus is not a walk in the park.
Even from the very beginning, the walk has been dangerous. Before Jesus was crucified the first disciples pulled off their sandals and called it a day. They’d had enough of that demanding journey, traipsing around Galilee not knowing where they were headed; and not understanding “Why?” this was all happening.
One glimpse of the actual race Jesus was running, and the disciples unanimously dropped out of the event. Expecting easy glory and the wind at their backs, they quit at the first threat of trouble. They thought following Jesus would be … well … more comfortable. Now, after a humiliating, messy, excruciating death, Jesus was back again, saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29).
Sweating it out is clearly the standard requirement of faith. But when our 21st-century world excitedly contacts “comfort technicians” to make life’s sweaty realities disappear, we seem to perpetuate the idea that discomfort is to be avoided at all costs. We seem to believe that life, like our shoes, can appear to be fashionable while feeling like sneakers. Truth is, sometimes life is uncomfortable.
Consider the story of Charles Haggard. Consider how uncomfortable his life became.
- Charles Haggard decided to rob one of those giant do-it-yourself home shopping centers.
- But alert police caught him in the act and started to chase him.
- As Mr. Haggard ran through the store, he saw a door. He opened it and ran through.
- Then he saw another door, which he opened and ran through, then another door.
In all, Mr. Haggard ran through eleven fake doors that were part of a display before running into a brick wall and knocking himself out. (From the book, The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done)
You think his feet were sweating? Like I said, Truth is, sometimes life is uncomfortable.
No promise of ease was offered when Jesus breathed upon the disciples and told them to “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22). The idea that following Jesus means carefree living ignores the truth about genuine discipleship. Running for Jesus may not be comfortable; sweating for Jesus will not be fashionable.
Let’s be careful to remember that by “sweating it out” we’re not referring to a salvation-by-works regimen that keeps us sweating and in doubt, as if the grace of Jesus Christ falls short. If we never stop moving, if we fill every minute with activities meant to “prove” we are worthy, then we will never know peace.
The walk of faith is marked first by grace. The grace of God is what cools the sweaty feet of faith.
- By grace, the Holy Spirit eases our burdens along the road.
- By grace, God invites doubters to come for a closer look.
- By grace, even sweaty men and women, running around like fools in the early church, become pillars of faith.
- By grace, God calls us by name.
- By grace, God appears to us often in moments of deepest gloom and skepticism.
So wear your comfortable walking shoes lined with polytetrafluoroethylene – a nifty synthetic material that keeps water out but allows water vapor to spread throughout it. But as you jog or walk down the post-resurrection highway, just remember that your faith feet will get hot and tired. Sweat may pour over your brow. That’s because, unlike Thomas, you believe even in the absence of proof. And your reward is the voice of Jesus, who says to you every day as he said to the disciples: “Peace be with you.”
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, 4/2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “ULC Sermon 4-8-18” name of the sermon.