But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” - Matthew 17:7 (CEB)
Touch was central to Jesus’ ministry. By my count, the Gospels include ten references to Jesus touching – tongues, eyes, hands, the stretcher carrying a widow’s dead son, and, on the night he was betrayed, the feet of his disciples and the ear of a soldier one of his disciples tried to cut off.
There are some fifteen references to people touching Jesus. In Luke 16, “the whole crowd wanted to touch Jesus, because power was going out from him and he was healing everyone.” In Luke 24, the risen Christ invites his friends to touch him, wounds and all.
Human touch has the capacity to heal and empower. Consensual touch connects us to one another, helps us feel safe and cherished, and activates biochemicals that make us healthier and happier.
But the pandemic has limited our touching opportunities. Casual handshakes and fist bumps are out. Heart-swelling hugs are hard to come by. The tactile passing of the peace may be history.
I live alone (with my sweet rescue pup) and have been touched just four times in four months – by people doing their jobs. As a way of loving and protecting others, I have not touched anyone.
“Skin hunger” is a real thing, and in these days of lockdown and distancing, many of us have it. So until there is a vaccine, let’s find other ways to touch one another – with all the love and care of the God who reaches out to us in enfleshed presence.
Like the desperate woman who knew she would be healed if only she could touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, may I never stop reaching for you.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.