Jesus with Dirty Feet

Lenten Sermon Series, Sermon 1


By Jeff McDowell

                                      Horseheads UMC

Sunday, February 26, 2023


In the year 2001, we did a pastor exchange with a Methodist Pastor in England, living in Boroughbridge. A pastor over 4 churches brought his wife and two girls to America and lived in our house, drove our car and served our church in Bath, ny. I brought my wife, our two boys and we lived in their house, drove their very tiny car, and served their 4 churches in Yorkshire, England.


Near Boroughbridge in England is an attraction called the “forbidden corner.”  This began as a small amusement in a man’s backyard, and over the years grew to be a huge park.  In it you follow a maze – like path, not sure what you will find around the next bend.  It may be the three bears chasing goldilocks, or Paul Bunyan, carved out of a tree.  There are hidden passageways underground, and fountains, characters, and sculptures.


Without direction, we wander off the path God has for us.

It is a difficult thing to live the Christian life, consistently and without wandering. “The view is fine, you might well say but friend, you’ve come quite the wrong way.”


My experience at the Forbidden Corner reminds me of a classic hymn: “Come, thou Font of Every Blessing.”


It is just like the hymn says: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the Lord I love.” What is the solution? “Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”


Another one wandering was Eve, in the garden of Eden. Created in God’s image, Adam and Eve were given full freedom with just one fruit NOT to eat… and of course, Eve and Adam walked to it with bare feet and ate of that forbidden fruit tree.


With Bare feet and naked bodies, Adam and Eve became instantly ashamed and hid themselves from God: they had wandered off HIS path.


HELP was needed. Jesus came into our world with Dirty Feet, just like Adam and Eve. He walked the same earth but without any sin. This stint of Adam and Eve resulted in what we call the stain of original sin, stamped upon every person who followed them. Jesus, fully human, had the same stamp of original sin available to him, but HE was different. He came, not born of humans only, but also born of God: eternally begotten from the Father, full of Grace and truth. “The WORD became flesh and lived among us….” (John 1:14)


Here is what Jesus said about sinning.  “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.”  If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.”  “If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.”  Listen to what The Message translation says:


“You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire.”  “You’re better off one – eyed than alive and exercising your twenty- twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.”


Jesus came with dirty feet to show us our feet don’t have to be. We have to admit our humanness and the ease with which we fall into sin, but we don’t have to live that way all the time.  In fact, we have full choice for our future.


And that is the good news.


What is your destiny?  Your fate?  What if you created it instead of waiting for it to create you?


You are in control over what you do.


Even if you have an addiction and cannot get past it, Jesus is your advocate to help you (Romans 7).


James 1

14But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved.

A man went to visit the river, the Wisconsin river. He loved the pastoral scene, the green hills gently sloping down to the lazy river, the sweet gurgling sound of the water, lazily making its way to the Mississippi river.

In front of the town the river ran under an old fashioned wooden bridge, and the cool – shadowed waters that ran under it seemed to invite you to come and swim.

When tempted to go down and swim in it, he inquired why he saw no one else swimming, and no one boating on such a lovely river.


It is deceiving; where it seems so calm and peaceful, it actually rushes with great force to the Mississippi.  Even the strongest swimmers cannot overcome its current and many people die every year in its deceptive pull. 


Sin is like that, it begins with a seemingly innocent desire, but when we give in to it, when we let it invite us and we accept the invitation, we find ourselves swept away into its current, unable to free ourselves.


What are we to do then, when we fall into the river of temptation? Call upon the name of Christ and let the brothers and sisters around you pull you out.


Jesus says, Mark 9:42:


“Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well preserved, protected from eternal flames.  Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”



This sermon series, now until Easter is called, “Jesus with dirty feet.” The spiritual life is all about choices.


First, it was God’s choice to send us Jesus, fully human, fully divine; to show us that we all need to become God’s people again. 


This means becoming genuine, not hypocrites, and not playing favorites. 


Two of the most genuine people I know live right here among us: Don and Grace Snyder, currently serving God by adding on a kitchen for a church in Uraguay.


  Perfect?  No.  Living for Christ? Definitely. Willing to do his bidding? Always.  And Don just turned 80 on this trip!!!


One of the topics in my sermon series was “no one likes a know – it – all.  Don and Grace are lifelong learners, even going to SPRC training when Don has been on sprc many many years off and on in this church.


And last week my message from Mark about No grandstanding.  Rather than being proud spectators, don and Grace are involved in the huddles, hearing Jesus call the plays, and then running the ball down the field with the rest of us.


You may not like everything about Don and Grace: how could you, they are human after all!

In fact, there were many things that people just plain did not like about Jesus.


But its not about what we like in each other, is it?


It is about what we see what inspires us to carry on with the calling, with the mission of Jesus Christ.


Some people here this morning may feel they have messed up their life so much, they have no hope for getting help/


Others may feel that they are too old or too shy or too tall or too short, or too addicted, or too little too late.  But God has something to say about that.  You have the choice before you each and every day to trust in a Savior.


Jesus came, not to show us up, but to show us the way.


Jesus came, not to show us up, but to show us the way.

A very special marching Band competition took place in 2006 at Corning East:  Some bands so much better; some bands not nearly as prepared as Bath’s band, which our son Nathan was playing the quad drums in.


But listen:  Compare and you go down, sinking under the current of popular pressure. 


Prepare and you go up, floating above the current, using it to take you where you want to go.


 What was different last night among band competitions, was the sportsmanship.  It rained and they did this in the rain.  All the bands were soaked.  As each was on the field, the prev. band had a chance to hear them.  On the way off the field, the band coming on, their competition, congratulated them, saying “good job, you sounded great!”


What would it be like if we came to the realization that this Christian life is not just about winning over another, but encouraging one another, serving one another, and realizing we are all at some time, standing in the pouring rain, doing our best!