March 13, 2014
Mark 1: 40-45
During the months of my engagement to my wife, a woman in my church gave me a bit of advice. “Remember to always touch each other,” she said. “I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual way. I am just talking about a simple touch, just to let each other know you’re there.” She went on to talk about how she and her late husband had been “touchers,” and how it had helped them maintain a spirit of tenderness and openness towards each other.
There is power in a simple touch – and not just in marriage. I think it is one reason why hugs are a common way of greeting each other at church. There is something within us that longs for connection with other human beings, and the sensation of flesh touching flesh helps to reinforce that connection.
The problem is that there is so much in life that wants to sever that connection. Because of sin, the world is in the business of pushing us away from each other. As one of my seminary professors used to put it, the world would love nothing better than to make us all strangers to each other. That way we can more easily use each other for our own selfish purposes.
I am intrigued by a simple detail in today’s reading. Jesus healed a leper by reaching out and touching him. Leprosy made people untouchable in the ancient world. Lepers were considered to be cut-off from the rest of society. They were isolated socially and spiritually. But Jesus refused to honor the distinctions and the divisions that defined his world – and ours. He reached out and touched a man with leprosy. And by the power of that simple touch from the Son of God, the man was healed.
Leprosy is still around in parts of the world. The ministries of Serve Trust in Narasaraopet, India, for example, have created a home for lepers. These are people who were previously living under a tree, because no one in their society would have anything to do with them.
But even in our world there are people we have designated as “untouchable.” Social, economic, class, gender, health, and host of other distinctions have divided our world and made us strangers to each other. Ask yourself today: who would Jesus not touch.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you did not honor the distinctions of our sinful world. Help us to see all people today as having been created in your image. Thank you for those who have touched us. Help us now to pass along that same blessing to others. Amen.