Mark 1:40-42 – A man with leprosy came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (NIV)
On Sunday morning, a shabbily-dressed homeless person was found sitting on a piece of cardboard at the front of our church entrance, as people filed into the sanctuary. His head was down, and he almost seemed not to notice those entering the church.
As one can imagine, the reaction to this individual was varied. Many people walked by, ignoring him, pretending not to see, picking up the pace as they passed. Others bent over and offered encouragement to enter the warmth of the church, where coffee and food could be made available. One person actually bent down to the level of the street person, putting his hand on him and asking how he could meet his needs.
Just as the service started, the homeless person appeared at the back of the sanctuary and took a seat there quietly for a while, before getting up and wandering over to the food table, set up for after-church fellowship. There he began to stuff his pockets with muffins.
Soon, the street person sauntered to the front of the church and took off his hoody and balaclava, and the congregation immediately realised that it was … me, the pastor.
I then read today's passage from Mark, noting that it was not necessary for Jesus actually to touch the leper in order to heal him. Remember how Jesus healed the centurion's daughter from a day's journey away? But it was physical touch that the leper (as one shunned and ignored by his community) needed, as much as a spiritual touch or a healing touch.
God created us to need physical touch, so we must be much more liberal — yet sensitive — with our physical touch. Much more, we need to reach out and touch the hurting, the marginalized, the needy in our society with all the resources that God has given us.
Walking by is not an appropriate response.
Prayer: Lord, we all stand in need of Your touch, a touch that goes beyond mere healing. Help us to become the kind of people who are ready to reach out and touch, meeting the needs of others, and in doing so, bringing Your kingdom a touch closer. Amen.