The God Who Resides in the Gift of Touch
This Wednesday was Ash Wednesday at Bear Creek and I have to say I was deeply moved by the worship service. Not by what I did or said, as your pastor, but by what we did for maybe the first time in 2 years…we touched! My finger met your forehead or hand and in that touch I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time…the Holy Spirit in our midst...the physical presence of God in the “in-between” of us!
A good friend and colleague of mine, Paul Baker, wrote this about his Ash Wednesday experience:
“An unexpected Ash Wednesday blessing. As a pastor I am always a bit anxious for Ash Wednesday. Is the ash going to leave a dark enough cross, or am I going to drop a bit of ash into someone’s eye, or is the oil to ash mixture going to be correct? All of that anxiety was eclipsed this year by an unexpected blessing. As I turned from dipping my finger into the ash to face the first person in line, I instinctively touched the person on their elbow with my other hand. I was probably trying to steady myself for making the cross on their forehead. But what I found was that a simple touch like that really made a connection. I then made that a part of my routine, make a cross with one hand and touch the elbow with the other hand. For those that wanted the cross on their hand, I would steady their hand with my left hand and make the cross with my right. – It seems like a simple thing, however what came to me afterwards is that we have not touched each other in about two years. – I came away with a whole new appreciation for the healing power of a good touch.”
There is something so basic and fundamental about touch in Christian ministry! I don’t think we can preach about an “incarnational God” who took on flesh in Jesus, the Christ, without doing “incarnational ministry”…without learning how to use and respect the amazing gift of touch!
And I hope and pray we will continue to find rituals which use it appropriately and with the holy respect that it deserves.
Your pastor, touched by a God who continues to reside in the gift of touch, Brook