A Touching Place
Thursday, October 1st, 2020
It's not natural, is it? Our church WhatsApp group are deeply concerned about the health of one of our number who has chronic kidney problems and has been taken into hospital to help him with his breathing. His wife, one of our elders, can only see him for one hour in the day. We can't do what comes naturally, either, and call on Elaine, give her a hug and sit with her for a while.
One of the worst features of this pandemic has been the distancing, the lack of touch and physical presence in each other's homes. The agonising pictures of people who cannot visit their elderly parents in Care Homes, comfort each other in bereavement, give a new grandchild a cuddle haunts the news every day.
Touch was such a significant element of Jesus' ministry. Touching the blind man's eyes, embracing the leper, being touched by those who reached out to him in their need, taking children in his arms. Yet, there was a moment when he asked Mary Magdalene not to hold on to him. In the garden on the morning of the resurrection, Mary's natural reaction to finding Jesus alive after his crucifixion was to embrace him and never want to let him go. But Jesus needed to leave his friends bodily so that he could be with them always and everywhere - in the Spirit.
One of the things we are learning in this time of forced isolation, is the value of the technology which now enables us to stay in touch via social media and digital conversations. Pictures of each other on Facebook, a video conversation on WhatsApp, a family get together on Zoom. We have all become quite creative in how we stay connected. It was only in living memory - for some of us - that our grandparents could only communicate with family who were separated from them via an occasional letter.
We have to be thankful for the ability to see and hear each other via our modern technology. However, it can never be an adequate substitute for a comforting embrace, an affectionate kiss and a chat in the sitting room or at the bedside. We'll have to accept the limitations which keep us safe at the moment, but I, for one, can't wait to call on family and friends in all the times of joy and sorrow. After all, are we not Jesus' hand and feet, helping each other to realise his presence in our own physical fellowship together? It's only natural.
Christ’s is the world in which we move. Christ’s are the folk we’re summoned to love, Christ’s is the voice which calls us to care, And Christ is the One who meets us here.
Refrain: To the lost Christ shows his face; To the unloved He gives His embrace; To those who cry in pain or disgrace, Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place . Feel for the people we most avoid. Strange or bereaved or never employed; Fear that their living is all in vain.
Feel for the parents who lost their child, feel for the woman whom men have defiled. Feel for the baby for whom there’s no breast, And feel for the weary who find no rest.
Feel for the lives by life confused. Riddled with doubt, in loving abused; Feel for the lonely heart, conscious of sin, Which longs to be pure but fears to begin.
John Bell & Graham Maule - Iona Community
You can hear this sung on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTIwZ3XNyEY
PS: It's National Poetry Day and the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, has written a poem for today from his home in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. It's quite pertinent in terms of my wanderings around keeping in touch:
Something Clicked Then something clicked and the day quivered and rang like a question mark! Why grit your teeth in the gridlock now the commute’s a superfast hop and a skip from toothbrush to keyboard, from bed-hair to screen-call? Why wrestle with glitches and gremlins or tussle with gubbins and gismos, or idle and churn in the swirling pit of the buffering wheel now you’re fine-tuning the senses, enrolling for real life, getting to grips with arts and crafts that were only a keystroke away all along - you’re a rhythm guitar, a poem, a garden, a song. You’ve learned to cook - you’re a Sunday roast, a multigrain loaf, a recipe book! Why be garbled and scrambled again now you’re mindful, resourceful, neighbourly, human? Now you’re curious. Fruitful. Meaningful. Tuneful. And why twiddle your thumbs, though sometimes it’s good to kick back, to noodle and doodle letting dreams swim into pin-sharp-focus, meander through luminous moments. Why stall, why settle for knowledge arriving granule by granule? No more fishing for news with a butterfly net, doing the human aerial. You’re bright of late, ideas hitching and switching from one domain to the next, thoughts swiping from subject to subject, planet to planet, globetrotting the universe. And you’re riding a bike - you’re a walk, a hike, a mountain, a lake. It’s a new world - you’re at school in the kitchen, at work in the attic, in Ancient Rome in the lounge, on Mars in the basement. Why tear out your hair while the present dithers and loads, you deserve to lean on the airwaves and not fall over, to feel the hub of your heart’s heart pulsating and purring with life’s signal. So you’re right here this minute being your best being. And now you’ve hooked up with the all-thinking all-feeling all-doing version of you why sit in the future’s waiting-room drumming your fingers, why lose the connection when you could be your own greatest invention? Simon Armitage