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Don’t Touch – words for Low Sunday

Don’t Touch

Words for Low Sunday  – 19 April 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe

A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage 

Text

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.   (John 20v27)

zoom and Thomas

God give you peace my sisters and brothers.

Today is Low Sunday.  So called because, after all the Bells and Smells and gorgeous golden vestments of Easter Day we need a little bit of a breather.  Well that didn’t go as planned did it?  Our churches have been locked and empty, the Lenten array is still in place, the Paschal candle remains unlit, there are no Easter flowers, no pealing of bells (yes, the church clock is still an hour behind the rest of the nation) and no singing of Handel’s Messiah later today.  Low Sunday?  Maybe we should rename it Lower Sunday?

It is for very good reason that this is the case and, though it hurts to not be with the People of God, opening the Word of God, and breaking the Bread of God, we need to do this to ensure that we are ‘all present and correct’ when we can meet again.

But that doesn’t make it any easier does it?

Footprints in sand

We stand in a place of paradox.
Last Sunday Jesus commanded Mary Magdalene to not touch Him.
This Sunday he calls on Thomas to reach out and touch Him.
And we?  We can do neither.

Yes we can do creative things like Zoom meetings and try to hide our hurt by making jokes as to how Jesus would maintain ‘social distance’ while still being somehow ‘present’.

Yet how can we measure the presence of the Ever Present One without  any touch of any kind?  This is the One over whom the Apostle John rejoices when he says;

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.   (1 John 1v1-4)

Yet we cannot touch Him and so our joy is far from complete.

We used to be able to hold out our hands and be touched by Him under the guise of Bread and Wine.
We used to be able to meet Him in the joy of sharing the Peace as we shook each other’s hands and, even do the unthinkable, hug.
We even used to meet Him by becoming His hands and feet as we met Him through those who visited the Pop-Up Shop, or Pushchair Pitstop or a visit to one of the many Care Homes in our parish.

When, how, can we touch again?

Touch is at the heart of being human and is one of the longest entries, even for the non-tactile English, in our dictionaries[1] and without touch we are an abstract ‘I’ with no ‘we’ with whom to reference ourselves.

Touch comes before sightThe Canadian author Margaret Attwood in her book ‘The Blind Assassin’  says this of the touch which we are denied at this time.

Touch comes before sight, 
before speech.
It is the first language and the last,
and it always tells the truth

We desperately need to touch people and things to feel their ‘width’, to determine their veracity, to anchor not only our bodies but our souls as well.

So what do we do in a world without touch?
What did Jesus do this Easter when we could not reach out to touch Him and find our truth in Him?

Truth cannot be bound and so, in His imperative to be the Incarnate One, the One through whom God touches this sad and sick world,
He still comes.
He still touches.
He still proclaims the love and forgiveness of God.
He touches us, but in different places and ways than those we are used to at Easter.

The Holy Poet Malcolm Guite describes how Christ touched the world at Easter 2020 and how He still calls us to follow Him.

Easter 2020

And where is Jesus, this strange Easter day?
Not lost in our locked churches, anymore
Than he was sealed in that dark sepulchre.
The locks are loosed; the stone is rolled away,
And he is up and risen, long before,
Alive, at large, and making his strong way
Into the world he gave his life to save,
No need to seek him in his empty grave.

He might have been a wafer in the hands
Of priests this day, or music from the lips
Of red-robed choristers, instead he slips
Away from church, shakes off our linen bands
To don his apron with a nurse: he grips
And lifts a stretcher, soothes with gentle hands
The frail flesh of the dying, gives them hope,
Breathes with the breathless, lends them strength to cope.

On Thursday we applauded, for he came
And served us in a thousand names and faces
Mopping our sickroom floors and catching traces
Of that virus which was death to him:
Good Friday happened in a thousand places
Where Jesus held the helpless, died with them
That they might share his Easter in their need,
Now they are risen with him, risen indeed. 
Malcolm Guite

We may not all be able to hold and heal others in Christ’s Name – please keep on showing your appreciation for those who do – but we can all stand in awe of God’s great self-giving death-defying love and still proclaim,

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

 

[This blog ‘Don’t Touch’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]

 

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

 

[1] For an exploration of the importance of touch in the earthly ministry of Jesus pleas look at Norman Autton’s 1989 book called simply ‘Touch’.

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