Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflections 2018 –“ Touch”
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. (1 John 1:1)
During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way. There are 5 senses: touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell. This week focuses on the sense of “touch.”
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
This is quite a dramatic story. Take a few moments and imagine the scene- Jesus and a LARGE crowd of people approach the gate of a small town. Coincidently, a LARGE crowd from the town had gathered near the gate. The moods of the two crowds are very different. I imagine Jesus’ crowd to be in a positive and joyful mood. They have just listened to Jesus preach wonderful sermons, and they have seen Jesus heal several people. I imagine them to be smiling, loudly laughing and hopeful; playfully recounting the messages and extraordinary events they’ve witnessed with others from the group. Now imagine the crowd from the town. They are sad. They are crying. They are probably silent except for the sound of weeping. A man has just died (probably not of old age) and the crowd is walking solemnly with the corpse and the man’s mother. The mother is now a widow. Not only has she just lost her son, but she is also facing many troubles on how she will live and support herself. Now, these two crowds, lead by Jesus and the man’s mother, meet face-to-face. Serious drama.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t step off the road in order to let the funeral procession pass. He doesn’t politely say, “excuse me.” He does what everyone is least expecting. Jesus stands directly and boldly in the way of the grieving crowd. Have you ever been to a funeral? What would happen if a stranger entered into the service and disrupted it? How would you feel? What would you do? I would probably be too shocked to do anything.
Jesus is doing more than disrupting the funeral and obstructing their path. He is obstructing death itself. Remember, Jesus is a stranger to the woman. Yet, Jesus invites himself into her extremely private and emotional event. Not only does he invite himself into the scene, he takes over the scene. Next, he does something almost unthinkable- he touches the bier that is carrying the dead body. Jesus is unmoved by the purity laws about dead bodies or social etiquette. Jesus is only interested in life. Restoring life. Renewing life.
A couple years ago, I went to Kolkata India for a few weeks. I volunteered at the Mother Theresa “House of the Destitute.” I saw extreme human suffering and I even saw several people die. The other volunteers and I were encouraged to follow Mother Theresa’s example and not be afraid to touch others. Disregarding open wounds, painful and ugly infections, and intense diseases, Mother Theresa showed that the simple act of holding someone’s hand, gently massaging their frail and broken bodies, or even simply brushing the hair out of their eyes is an act of love. Using “touch,” Mother Theresa reaffirmed the dignity and humanity of her fellow human being and she showed the world what love looks like.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
Because I have little children at home, literally every day I wipe tears from their eyes. Sometimes the tears are because they has tripped and fallen or perhaps it is time to go to bed, brush teeth, eat a vegetable, go to church or leave church and return home. One thing I’ve learned about wiping away tears is that it must be done very gently and delicately. It requires my full attention so that I don’t poke an eye or frighten them. Wiping away tears doesn’t take away pain or remove insecurity, but it shows the crying person that they are cared for and embraced. It shows the crying person that they are receiving the full attention and love of the other. I have a deeper understanding of Revelation 21 now. Envisioning God wiping away my tears, your tears, and everyone’s tears shows me that God is personally invested in each and everyone of us. Every individual matters to God and everyone is deserving of – and receives God’s full attention and care.
My father is an amateur geologist and we often spent many afternoons searching for rocks, studying rocks, and admiring rocks. Near my parent’s house in Colorado there are some amazing rock formations in the mountains. Millions of years of water and rain have cut deep grooves and scarred the once smooth rock surfaces. It is amazing how powerful and forceful even a single drop of water can be when it is allowed to continuously drip. One of my favorite seminary professors often said, “God wipes the tears from our eye’s so their continuous flow won’t make permanent grooves on our cheeks.”
Blessings to you during your Lent journey
God’s Peace~Pastor Erik