Touch in Church

What is all this touching in church?
It used to be a person could come to church and sit in a pew
and not be bothered by all this friendliness and
certainly not by touching.
I used to come to church and leave untouched.
Now I have to be nervous about what’s expected of me.
I have to worry about responding to the person sitting next to me.
Oh, I wish it could be the way it used to be;
I could just ask the person sitting next to me: How are you?
And the person could answer: Oh, just fine,
And we’d both go home… strangers who have known each other
for twenty years.
But now the minister asks us to look at each other.
I’m worried about that hurt look I saw in that woman’s eyes.
Now I’m concerned, because when the minister asks us to pass the peace,
The man next to me held my hand so tightly I wondered if he had been
touched in years.
Now I’m upset because the lady next to me cried and then apologized
And said it was because I was so kind and that she needed
A friend right now.
Now I have to get involved.
Now I have to suffer when the community suffers.
Now I have to be more than a person coming to observe a service.
That man last week told me I’d never know how much I’d touched his life.
All I did was smile and tell him I understood what it was to be lonely.
Lord, I’m not big enough to touch and be touched!
The stretching scares me.
What if I disappoint somebody?
What if I’m too pushy?
What if I cling too much?
What if somebody ignores me?
“Pass the peace.”
“The peace of God be with you.” “And with you.”
And mean it.
Lord, I can’t resist meaning it!
I’m touched by it, I’m enveloped by it!
I find I do care about that person next to me!
I find I am involved!
And I’m scared.
O Lord, be here beside me.
You touch me, Lord, so that I can touch and be touched!
So that I can care and be cared for!
So that I can share my life with all those others that belong to you!
All this touching in church—Lord, it’s changing me!

~by Ann Weems~
From Reaching for Rainbows pp. 35-36

In the lectionary text for this morning, Christ’s hands are outstretched, Thomas touches, and in that touch Thomas is changed. This is our first hands on glimpse of just how incarnational Christianity is and will forever be. Christ’s hands weren’t just extended to Thomas, but are also extended to us. We, too, have touched and been touched by Christ. Think about it for a moment. Doesn’t Christianity become most real for us through the touch of another—whether it a handshake in the middle of worship, a hug of welcome, a hand-held before surgery, or even a meal made by the hands of your deacon. It is through this physical actions that the radical love and presence of Christ is seen and felt. And through this touch, we are changed. And In that small and maybe quick exchange, we become an extension—we become the hands of Christ in the here and now. We are the hands that are called to reach out and touch the places in the world where hurt and pain dominate, those places where hearts are cold, those places where most dare not journey, and those places that might be as close as the person sitting next to us. This touch, filled with peace and love, makes Christ known. This touch is life changing.

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