POWER OF TOUCH
By DANNY MINTON
Our “church” has decided that we will meet this Easter Sunday. I expect that several hundred families will join each other in worshiping the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. We will sing together, pray together, and have communion together. We will listen to a timely lesson from our pulpit minister and welcome all who have joined us. At the same time, we will practice “social distancing.” We will be in our homes, tuning in at 10:00 to enjoy our time together.
There will be one thing that we all miss. That will be the ability to reach out and touch one another with a handshake or hug. We will worship, but will only touch one another from a distance through an email, text, or phone call. We will let each other know we care but without human contact.
This afternoon I’ll be visiting the home of a dying member, equipped with my mask and gloves. The family wanted me to come and pray with them. We’ll cry together and pray together for someone who hasn’t long to live. Then without touching them, I’ll return home, wash my hands, change my clothes, and continue the social distancing directive. It’s difficult ministering without being able to hold those who need comfort.
One thing the pandemic has taught us is how we miss the fellowship of our fellow Christians and family. The hugs, handshakes, and face-to-face contact is something that we often take for granted. Now that we can’t, we miss the interaction with others.
Touch makes things real. Touch makes us feel close and connected. The apostle Thomas when he heard that Jesus had resurrected, didn’t believe it. It wasn’t doubt, but unbelief. His attitude was, I’ll only believe when I can touch his scars. Touch was important to him to assure him it was true. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, he told him to touch the wounds and heal his unbelieving.
My favorite story in the life of Jesus as he went out to the people is when he meets the leper in Mark, chapter 1. The man comes to Jesus and says to him, “If you are willing, You can make me clean.” Here was a man who was an outcast. Here was a man who probably had not been touched by another human being in years. He was sick and alone, yet he comes to Jesus pleading to be cleaned. Jesus, Mark tells us, looked at the man with compassion. Then he did what would shock those around him. Jesus reached out and touched the man. For the first time in years, another human being had made physical contact. What must have gone through his mind to feel the human touch for the first time in years?
I have a couple of friends whose wives have Alzheimer’s. They are in a facility and are not allowed to go in to see them, something they had been doing every day. They cannot hold them or hug them or kiss them. They can only see them through the window, smiling, waving, and yelling, “I love you,” from a distance. Their spouses don’t understand, but outside the window is the yearning to touch the one they love.
Sitting through a “virtual” worship service can make us long to see and physically enjoy the fellowship of others. Then again, another way of touching is not just the physical, but the touching of hearts. There was a poem written in 1938 by Gilbert Cuthbert Hicks. The poem is entitled “The Blind Man Flies.” Other poets have used parts of it, and the final phrase was used by Ronald Reagan the day the Challenger exploded.
I am blind: I have never seen
Sun gold nor silver moon,
Nor the fairy faces of flowers,
Nor the radiant noon.
They speak of the dawn and the dusk,
And the smile of a child,
Of the deep red heart of a rose,
As of God, undefiled.
But I learnt from the air to-day
(On a bird’s wings I flew)
That the earth could never contain
All of the God I knew.
I felt the blue mantle of space,
And kissed the cloud’s white hem;
I heard the stars’ majestic choir
And sang my praise with them.
Now joy is mine through my long night,
I do not feel the rod,
For I have danced the streets of heaven,
And touched the face of God.
I look forward to the weeks ahead when I will be able to grasp the hand or hug the neck of someone I have missed seeing. It will be a joy to join in fellowship face-to-face once again. Those of us who are Christians look forward to the fellowship. Until then, much like the blind man touched the face of God, so we can touch the face of those we love in our hearts.
The disciples saw Jesus crucified and felt the loss for days. How joyous they must have felt when they reached out and touched him. Imagine the joy of Thomas when he saw Jesus, and when he touched him, knew He Had Risen!
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ