My high school athletic coaches would always motivate us to work hard in practice by yelling at us, “You play like you practice.” When great athletes do amazing things which seem to be improvised on the spot, usually they are repeating what they’ve done in practice hundreds of times. They don’t plan the move ahead of time, but when the occasion presents itself, they have it ready in their minds and bodies. Same for great jazz musicians.
One way to think about worship—for Christians–tonight is as spiritual practice. It’s not the real game. What we hear is a story about Jesus, on the night before he would be executed, kneeling and washing his disciples’ feet. Makes you think about Pope Francis, but of course the Holy Father would say that he was thinking about Jesus. When the worship leader tonight kneels and washes the feet of someone from the congregation, it’s not real. It’s a reenactment. But those of us who have done it or seen it forty or fifty times, have it in our minds and bodies and souls. So when the occasion to use it arises, we’ll have there to use. I, of course, haven’t always listened to the voice, the memory, but that “Jimminy Cricket” inside me will be trying to get my attention. And at those times when I have paid attention and acted on it, I’ve felt the wonder of being empowered to do something that was, as President Obama said, above my pay grade.