Posts Tagged ‘touch’

Print by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld's (1794-1872)

Print by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. . . . “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  [John 13:3-5, 8]

Jesus wanted to make a lasting impression. It’s not like he hadn’t talked about service and humility and lifting up others above oneself. But like so many of the parables and stories, he decided to create a picture, not just with words, but with actions. And yet, only John shares this story. Was it so humiliating? Did they fear the story would belie their claims of Jesus as the Messiah? After all, would the Messiah wash the feet of a mere fisherman? But for John, this was a critical illustration that could not be ignored.

And yet, the symbolic sharing of bread and wine at the meal is excluded by John. Clearly, for him, the foot washing was the most significant. And before that, the anointing of Jesus’s feet by Mary is told in detail. This too is bypassed by the other storytellers, except Luke, who doesn’t even identify the woman.

The significance of leadership and the self-abasement of feet is somehow important.

I never realized how much I under-appreciated my feet until I started having pain in the big toe of my left foot. Sometimes, it was so miserable, I couldn’t walk but a few steps. Every shoe had to pass the pain test before I would leave the bedroom. I tried everything from heat to cold to massage and acupuncture. I started wearing sandals everywhere (and not flipflops because the band would cut directly across the pain spot). Pretty soon, the pain started waking me up at night. Finally, I gave in and went to the doctor. The podiatrist was a little stumped because nothing really showed up in my x-rays or cat scan. In the end, he went ahead and did a bunionectomy even though my baby bunion was not the real problem. I think he just wanted to get in there and look around. It took almost three months to recover full use of my foot again . . . and of course, within a few months, the pain was back, not as acute, but still, there.

The podiatrist was not happy to see me again and said there was nothing more he could do. He gave me a referral to a physical therapist. I delayed that appointment for weeks out of embarrassment. I mean, really, a physical therapist for my toe??? And yet, I finally had no choice. Almost a year after my surgery, I gave in and went to the therapist. He was a really nice guy and I even told him my tale of embarrassment. The prescription was primarily deep massage.

The healing came through touch.

We don’t touch each other very much in our culture. Oh, we may hug and air kiss and we might shake hands or pat someone’s back. But a genuine touch, a focused touch, a touch with intent; now that makes a difference.

I have had massages off and on throughout the years, but only once did I have a massage by a believer who prayed over me throughout the experience. It was literally, life changing.

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, I don’t think he poured water out of a measuring cup or use handy wipes. He prepared them for the journey ahead. He healed them from the bottom up. He made them part of himself through touch: intimate and necessary.

I have written and will perform a monologue tomorrow evening at our Good Friday service and at one point, she says, “And if they [sinners and the the sick] were lucky, he would touch them: just so, just so.”

Touch me Lord. Wash my feet. Heal me. Prepare me for the days to come. The journey I have yet to walk.


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Like foot washing, head coverings and the like, the holy kiss has been discussed ad nauseum by many scholars and theologians. Generally, it is accepted that “kissing,” as a greeting is culturally based and not “required” in today’s church. We can just shake hands. But even that is going out of fashion.

I Corinthians 16:20
All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Oh yes, today, we know all about the germs. Those bad boys are putting a crimp in just about everything. And somehow, they seem to be getting worse than ever with each age. But never fear: we now have hand sanitizers everywhere, from the grocery store cart stand to the entrances of most public buildings and even the hallways of movie theaters.

People have become afraid to touch each other, much less kiss or drink from a common communion cup. Pretty soon, after the small plastic cups and tiny white dog biscuits are passed, they’ll follow up with a squirt of sanitizer.

Everything is becoming sanitized and impersonal when we’re face to face while intimacies flourish online. People say things in chat rooms, email, and texting that they would never say to one another in person. Some folks even participate in full blown virtual communities as “avatars” and in some of the worst cases, develop avatar-based intimacies and actually discuss in forums whether it’s cheating on a husband or wife if their avatars are having virtual sex.

Where is the simplicity in relationships?

A friend of mine once bemoaned that people don’t seem to know how to just “get together” and spend time together or just drop by and chat. Neighborhoods where people know each other and chat across a fence are becoming far fewer even though we are living closer and closer together.

The holy kiss greeting is a symbol of connection, a genuine touch of one person to another. This kiss doesn’t even have to be a lip to lip kiss, it can be as simple as authentic eye contact or a genuine hug or a gift of self.

To kiss in this way is to give. But if it’s not real, don’t bother. There are too many people who hug and kiss the air next to someone’s face because of heavy lipstick or some of other hair or make-up interference. Men have stopped kissing their children. I’m beginning to think more people are kissing their dogs than they are kissing other people.

A true kiss is an exchange, that’s all. I can kiss with my eyes, my fingertips, my nose, my feet. I can kiss with my lips. But if there is nothing behind the kiss, I have cheated the other person. If there is no true affection or desire to connect, then there really is no point in doing it.

In some fantasy books, if there is a true connection between people, something happens between them when they touch . . . like a small jolt of electricity. We have lost the ability to send ourselves through touch, through the kiss, through the eyes. How then can we pass Christ?

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I Will Be Healed

Mark 5:27-28
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

She pursued her healing. She reached outside the “box” of normal behavior for a woman and she touched the healer, the teacher, the prophet, the Lord. She believed her actions would make a difference. She believed He would have mercy upon her. Her only mistake was in believing that he wouldn’t notice. He sees our pursuit. He hears our prayers. He knows the heart.

Today, my body is feeling “iffy” with nausea and other unpleasantness. And so, I reach out to my healing God… I reach into the kingdom of God to touch His Spirit. Reach…. reach…. reach…

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