The first dog that Renee and I adopted was a six month old chocolate lab named Jonah. He was a wonderful dog ... eventually. When he joined our family he was all puppy with all of that unbridled puppy energy. Our next door neighbors at the time were Miles and Debbie. Miles was a massage therapist. One day, the four of us were sitting out on our front porch with Jonah. Miles was sitting with Jonah talking with him and rubbing his forehead. The next thing we knew, Jonah was sound asleep ... zonked! Renee and I looked at miles and asked, "How did you do that?!?!"
He never revealed his secret. I tried to repeat what I thought Miles was doing, but I never achieved the same result. We just had to wait for Jonah to grow out of that rambunctious and, at times, destructive phase of his life. (Thankfully, he was not that destructive. Except for that one shoe of Renee's ... but that is a post for another day!) That episode on the front porch showed the dramatic power of touch.
Of course, over the last couple of decades we have heard a lot of talk about touch. Sadly, much of that talk has been about inappropriate touch or unwanted touch. When I did my chaplaincy training while in seminary, my professor talked to us about the power of touching someone's hand during a pastoral visit. But then we hear about people that are made to feel uncomfortable when they are touched. It can be hard to navigate those waters at times. When I was in college, I worked for a daycare center. Our trainer warned us about inappropriate touching. One day, one of the children climbed into my lap. I over-reacted ... stood up like I was shot out of a cannon ... which deposited the poor child on the floor. Plop! What is one to do?
Perhaps more important than touch is presence. Being with someone in their time of need and being attentive to their needs is its own form of "touch." Being with someone in their isolation is touch. Being with someone and listening to their story is touch. I have learned over the years that "touch" requires no physical contact. Instead, it requires presence.
This week in worship, we will focus our attention upon two of Jesus' healing miracles. In both cases "touch" was the key component. We will learn what it means to truly reach out and "touch" somebody's hand.
May God bless you all,
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072