The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r106.htm
s106g12 Third Sunday of Easter 22/4/2012
‘Touch me and see’ Luke 24.39
John, in the epistle reading, exhorts us to not love the world, yet
the risen Jesus invites us to touch and see. The
incarnation didn't cease with Jesus' death. The risen Jesus is
as firmly grounded in earthly reality as before. Our
faith is not blind acceptance in an other-worldly phantasm, it is as
tangible and real as physical intimacy. Indeed we are
not expected to believe without touching and seeing. The real
scandal was the incarnation itself and the reason for having Jesus
killed was to kill incarnation itself. So the
resurrection is the restoration of incarnation, the victory of
incarnation over death.
Recently someone posted the saying on Facebook: 'Hugging is good
medicine. It transfers energy and gives the person
hugged an emotional lift. You need four hugs a day for
survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth.
Scientists say that hugging is a form of communication because it
can say things you don’t have the words for. And the
nicest thing about a hug is that you usually can’t give one without
getting one.' One original is at:
Jesus would agree!
So some of the 'things of the world' are good and some are
not. When I look at John's definition of the things of
the world that are not good: 'the desire of the flesh, the desire of
the eyes, the pride in riches -- comes not from the Father but from
the world' I think of the desire to possess and become
rich. But the hugs described above are mutual things -
each benefits. No-one possesses the other. No one
benefits at the expense of the other.
I have been reflecting on 'spirituality' and how this is related to
relationship. Spirituality is not about intellectual
belief but about touch. Ours is not a faith in a whole
set of religious propositions. Jesus invites us to touch
and see. We are to know one another intimately, and we
all know how growth comes through intimacy. We are
helped to discover who we actually are by our relationship with
others. But when I talk about relationship, I need to
make it clear that the master - servant relationship is not what I'd
include. The servant knows his or her proper
place! They are impeded from becoming everything they
could possibly be, through their subservience. The one
benefits at the expense of the other. The last thing the
master in such a relationship would ask of the servant, would be to
touch and see, for this implies human equality. One
'possesses' the other.
It is instructive that we speak of 'demon possession'.
It is interesting to me to ponder how those with mental illness are
less able to control their emotions and those with religious
delusions also have experiences that are compelling rather than
chosen. This flows on to those with supposedly no
delusions who still believe they are impelled by scripture,
tradition or whatever.
Freedom, health, equality and community are inextricably
linked. And we have to ask how the church of which we
are a part fosters freedom, health, equality and community, or how
it hinders these things. Are we mainly concerned how
many supporters we 'have'? Who are Anglicans rather than
Catholics ..? Such considerations are entirely inimical
to the fostering of spirituality, freedom, health, equality and
community. They are inimical to eternal life, here and
now, and if being a possession of this or that church is what the
bulk of society is rejecting when they reject the church, then I can
'Touch me and see' is the invitation to incarnation for the
incarnation is the divine touching humanity and seeing our
condition. The incarnation bridges the inequality; there
is no longer sacred and secular, the divine and the
human. No longer do we look beyond ourselves to see the
divine. 'Touch me and see' is the invitation to
reciprocate the incarnation, but not to reach up but to reach
across, as Jesus reached across the religious divide.
The risen Jesus bore the scars of life and death. The
risen Jesus comes to us, not as a miraculously healed victor over
death but with the battle scars present still, unhealed.
If the disciples did touch him, they would have got blood on their
hands. This would of course incur ritual impurity.
And if comes to me that ‘spirituality’ is really all about
connection. I have sometimes said that there are some
mothers who are content when they have a baby at their breast, some
people who are just so content when they are in a garden, others
when they are grooming a horse. There is a spirituality
of the surfer, the motorcyclist, the artist, the
musician. All of these spiritualities are about
connection. Sometimes the connection is more ethereal
than others, but it is a connection none the less. Jesus
invitation to ‘touch and see’ is an invitation to connection and to
‘see’; to feel the importance. And, of course, the times
when we are intimate with another is a prime example of the
importance of connection, of touching and seeing. Of
touching and seeing the divine - in the ordinary, in the wounded, in
flesh and blood, in the unclean.
And spirituality, being about connection, is all about communion,
not primarily of communion with God for that only comes with our
communion with others. Our communion of equals around a
common table is all about connection.
Recently I attended a mid-week service – it was from the 1662 prayer
book. While I have my difficulties with the lack of
gender sensitivity, I guess I can let it happen around me and get on
with my own thoughts and prayers. But I was thinking
about the words, the selfishness of which is masked by the fact that
we admit we are praying for the baptised communicant Anglicans ‘here
present’, not just my own self. It sounds like
selfishness still, only writ large, group selfishness, not in
essence any different from the motivation of the Mafia, only we have
the more powerful threat of eternal damnation to wield.
So when people say things like spirituality is important to them, it
is, I suspect this connection that is important. Somehow we
are not alone. And my role as the chaplain is to be
someone with whom others can connect. For it is these
connections, in our children and family, to a garden, an animal, the
creation, an object, a piece of music, our times of intimacy, that
people feel uplifted, valued and valuable.
I am constantly astonished how people, most of whom would not call
themselves ‘religious’ invite me into their room and their
life. At the very time when they are not at their best,
in pyjamas or hospital gown rather than Sunday best, in a strange
place where our natural feelings of privacy are invaded, sometimes
welcomed but often dreaded, people welcome another stranger into
their midst. And I do not know why it is important to
them and I certainly can’t quantify ‘the good’ I do, but the
connection is made. I attempt to make them feel
uplifted, valued and valuable.
In another context I have been looking at prayers of other faith
traditions and was reading some Buddhist prayers. And I
was reminded how they emphasise the connections we all have to every
other sentient being. There seems something particularly
wholesome as we perceive the truth of this perception.
And the story of the woman who tried to surreptitiously touch Jesus
and was healed tells us that each is aware of the connection being
made, of the other being made whole.
'Touch me and see' is an invitation to enjoy life in all it's
fullness, to appreciate the beauty all around us and the beauty of
our own bodies. Or in the words of Bishop John Spong who
invites us to "live our lives fully, love wastefully and become
everything God created us to be."
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