Sermon preached Maundy Thursday March 28, 2013
Texts: Luke 22:14-23, 39-46; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
I enjoy writing. I have been fortunate to have a couple of pieces published, though it’s been awhile, and I don’t really submit stuff for publication. I remember one piece, though, that I was really hoping would get published but didn’t. I wrote a review of Bruce Springsteen’s cd “The Rising” and submitted it to The Christian Century. It was not the kind of piece they published.
“The Rising” was Springsteen’s musical response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It was powerful musically and lyrically. I have been a Bruce Springsteen fan for a long time, saw him in concert in 1978 in St. Paul. I find there are a lot of times when Springsteen’s music reaches some deep places inside of me. One such song is “Human Touch.”
So you’ve been broken and you’ve been hurt
Show me somebody who ain’t
Yeah, I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain
But… a little touch up and a little paint…
You might need something to hold on to
When all the answers, they don’t amount to much
Somebody that you could just talk to
And a little of that human touch
Share a little of that human touch
Give me a little of that human touch
Touch. Human touch. Springsteen speaks to me. Music speaks to me. Poetry, which is musical words, speaks to me. Here is poem about touch.
Poem For My Mother Nancy Brewka-Clark (Beloved on the Earth)
Not having her in the world
is the strangest thing. Right now,
a winter wind is blowing sunlight
against the treetops, smashing it
into a million atoms of joy.
She herself found joy in every
lucent leaf, each kiss of transient
breeze against the cheek of
the earth. She watched the short,
sweet month of February with its
red hearts, lace and lengthening
light, the promissory note
of spring, come due with
interest every year, never jaded,
always mailing a card with
Xs and Os to her middle-aged
daughters. When she died we said
it was time, at eighty-eight, no
broken hearts here, she had a full
life, she was ailing, she was failing.
But in this light, with the snow
dripping off the roof and the branches
tossing, this light like a voice calling to
the sleeping bulbs, the burrowing
roots, this breath of fresh wind with
its sting and its kiss, as much as I
honor the spirit, I ache to touch flesh.
Touch. Human touch. Much as I honor the spirit, I ache to touch flesh. Don’t we know that? Don’t we ache, yearn, long to touch, to be touched? Touch is powerful. Sometimes the best thing I can do as a pastor is to let words escape me, fail me, and to grab hold of a hand in silence.
Tonight is about touch. There is food, a Passover meal – food passed from person to person, food touching lips, tongue, taste buds. There is bread, taken, touched, broken, passed. There is wine, lifted up, passed around. There are beads of sweat running down the face of Jesus. There are hands touching each other in prayer.
There are hands, reaching for a towel, a basin. There are hands ladling water. There are hands massaging feet, washing them clean, drying them off.
Touch connects. Touch comforts. It soothes. It heals. Touch can communicate love and kindness and service.
Not all touch. Just outside our readings for tonight there is a kiss that betrays. Jesus is seized, roughed up. This is not healing touch, connecting touch. Touch that is abusive, manipulative, coercive, intrusive is not touch that comforts, connects, heals.
But that is not our focus tonight. Tonight is about touch, human touch, that connects, comforts, soothes, heals, loves. We ache for that kind of touch. In such touch, there is often another touch. In their new cd, Duluth band Low sings a song entitled “Holy Ghost.” I feel the hands/but I don’t see anyone/anyone/I feel the hands/but I don’t see anyone…. Some holy ghost/keeps me hanging on.
In human touch that connects, heals, comforts, loves, there is also the touch of the divine, the touch of the Spirit, the touch of God.
In the touch of the human Jesus, God touched. [Jesus] came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her (Mark 1:31). Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him…. Immediately the leprosy left him (Mark 1:41, 42). She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak…. Immediately her hemorrhage stopped (Mark 5:27, 29). And whenever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed (Mark 6:56). Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly (Mark 8:25).
Jesus human touch is also God’s touch. Then he took a loaf of bread…. And he did the same with the cup. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
I need a little of that human touch, and a little of that God touch. I ache for flesh, and for the word made flesh.
Where, tonight, do you need God’s touch? Where do you ache for healing, for wholeness? Where do you feel broken, discouraged, downhearted? Where do you need a guiding hand, an encouraging touch on the shoulder?
We’ve all been broken. We’ve all been hurt. At times, we have done some of the hurting. We have ached to touch flesh, and found the person we most wanted to touch gone. We need a little touch – human and divine.
And if the story of Jesus is any indication, God aches to touch us. Amen.