A sermon delivered by Michael Cheuk, Pastor, Farmville Baptist Church, Farmville, Va., on August 7, 2011.
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
How beautiful are your feet? I dare say that most of us would answer “not very beautiful.” Most of us see our feet not as objects of beauty. Oh sure, some of us get pedicures and have our toe nails painted, but most of us see our feet as having a purely utilitarian function; they help us to stand up and walk. But after years of walking and running, even with shoes, most feet end up calloused and toes crooked. And they can get smelly. In most eating establishments, there’s a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy. There’s nothing more unappetizing than the sight and smell of dirty bare feet!
But if we think our feet have it bad, in Jesus’ day, one’s feet were the dirtiest part of one’s body. People in Jesus’ day didn’t have shoes as we have them today. They either wore open sandals, similar to flip flops, or they walked on their bare feet. After walking on unpaved paths and roads, people’s feet would be covered with dust and dirt. That’s why a good host would have a servant wash the feet of each guest as a sign of welcome and hospitality into his home. There were also health risks associated with going barefoot, such as cuts, abrasions, bruises and punctures, as well as getting hookworms, athlete’s foot and frostbite. Are you getting grossed out yet?
Given this background, it is interesting that Paul would use the image of one’s feet to exclaim: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Paul was referring to Isaiah 52:7, in which the prophet says: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah was telling his people who were living in captivity and in exile that a messenger was coming to proclaim good news of peace and salvation, that God was going free them from their captivity. Thousands of years later, in his letter to the Romans, Paul was another messenger proclaiming good news of peace and salvation in Jesus Christ. God was going to free them from their captivity to sin. It is in this context that Paul writes this classic and well-known verse used by Christian evangelists ever since: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” But Paul was quick to clarify that this salvation was for both Jews and Gentiles. In other words, God’s offer of salvation is given to all people, to all the world. Paul says, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.”
This is indeed good news! But how does it become a reality? How do all the people of the world get to the point of confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord? Well, Paul traces the steps of the path of salvation by asking a series of questions.
The good news is that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But Paul asks, how can they call on the one they have not believed in? So before one calls on the Lord, one has to have to believe. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? So the way to belief is to hear about Christ. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? So the way to hear about Christ is for someone to preach — literally to herald or to proclaim — the good news. And how can they preach unless they are sent? So these proclaimers first have to be sent and go to where the people are.
The first step toward the salvation of the world literally begins with people’s feet being sent out into the world. This reminds me of Jesus’ Great Commission to his disciples as recorded in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” And to those disciples who obey Jesus’ commission, who go into their Jerusalems, their Judeas, their Samarias, and into the ends of the earth, God tells them: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
God is not so concerned about the outward beauty of your feet, but what you do with your feet. Your feet may be cracked, crooked, calloused and full of corns, but if they carry the good news of God and God’s saving message, then in the eyes of God, your feet are beautiful. Pastor David Strem once said: The Hebrew word for beautiful is “nahad,” and it does not mean “pretty” or “cute.” It means: befitting, becoming, perfectly appropriate, used as designed—“perfectly fitting.” It is what God had in mind for our feet. The same way grapes were designed to be eaten and flowers are meant to bring color and scent to our world, your feet are designed to go places. And when they go into the world of men and women with the message of good news and peace with God, God calls them beautiful. Your feet make take you faster down the race track than anyone else, you may have shoes so big that other people cannot fill them, you may be able to kick the ball farther than anyone else, but that means nothing in the eternal frame. But if your feet take you to someone in need and with God’s help you enable him or her to walk with God, then your feet are being used for a purpose that matters for all eternity. Those feet are beautiful. It is not the external beauty of our feet that is recognized. It is the beauty of the message we bear, both in our words and in our actions that speaks to the love of God for all people. As they say, if we’re going to talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk. And we walk with our feet.
I heard a story about a Christian medical worker named Tom Little. He and his team worked in Afghanistan delivering medical supplies to Afghan villagers living in remote regions. On one occasion, his team was soaked through with freezing rain as they made their way over the Afghan mountains to deliver medical supplies and assistance. When they got to their destination and took off their shoes, the blisters on their feet opened up. The locals saw this and began repeating a sentence in their language. Confused, the team members looked to their translator, who explained in English: “They’re saying that your feet are beautiful. You have beautiful feet!”
Closer to home, I can’t help but think of the beautiful feet of those in our congregation who regularly enter into nursing homes and other homes of our shut-ins to pay them a visit. How beautiful are the feet of those who deliver meals and share God’s love to the sick and homebound in our community. How beautiful are the feet of those who will walk the extra mile to offer the love and forgiveness of God to those who’ve hurt them.
Yesterday morning, how beautiful were the feet of those who got up at 6:30 a.m. to cook breakfast for hungry children. How beautiful were the feet of those who escorted over fifty hungry children from FACES, our local food pantry, to our church so that they could eat a hot breakfast, be prayed over, and receive school supplies.
This morning, how beautiful are the feet of those who walked into the Piedmont Regional Jail at 9:30 a.m. to lead a Bible study and worship service for the female inmates there. How beautiful are the feet of parents who dedicate themselves to share the good news of Christ with their child.
This coming week, how beautiful are the feet of our teachers who will welcome students into their classrooms. How beautiful are the feet of those returning students who will approach and befriend new students in their classes.
Finally, how beautiful are the feet of Julie Gaines, our ministry intern, who will leave us today to take a step of faith in entering seminary so that she can bring good news to wherever God may send her. We will recognize and commission her later in the service.
But here’s the reality: we all have been commissioned and sent out into the world to proclaim the good news of God’s love and saving grace. God promised that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But it all begins with us going with our feet and bringing good news that Jesus saves. So, how beautiful are your feet? Amen.