“Don’t touch me!”
Why not, Jesus?
“Because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
What’s that got to do with anything?
Interestingly, before ascending Jesus did not want to be touched. Later, Jesus invites Thomas to touch his side. What gives?
I don’t understand Jesus’ don’t touch me posture. I am aware, however, that people sitting in pews have experienced their own “resurrections” when they have been able to draw healthy boundaries. Sadly, many congregants have been violated: physically, emotionally, and/or verbally. Their very health depends on being able to mouth the words that Jesus spoke. Don’t touch me. Don’t invade my space or being. Don’t do what I don’t want you to do. Respect me and my person.
I’m reading Howie Mandel’s book, Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me. This comedian’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as he puts it, is not funny.
I’m also thinking about the guy at the airport complaining about new security measures who said “Don’t touch my junk.”
My father, who was a wonderful, imperfect human being who was racist instructed his children not to touch the handrails while standing in the Sunday after church line at K & W. We were to avoid “black” germs.
What have your congregants been told not to touch?
Check out the lyrics of Laszlo and Gary’s song, “Don’t Touch That.” You can’t use all the lyrics, but you can use some of the song. Not touching is a serious topic, but serious topics can be preached with some levity. Think about using a few lines of the song as a part of your sermon introduction.
The flip side of the don’t touch me dynamic is that some individuals in the sanctuary are dying to be touched. Don’t forget the widows or divorcees or ones unable, for whatever reason or reasons, to find someone to scratch their back or hold their hand.
Two thousand and eleven years is a long time. Too long, maybe.
The central theme of the Christian faith is still debated—even after 2011 years. I believe that, without the debate, we hold no passion for the mission—no stake in the outcome.
A ministry colleague told me not long ago that the United States is currently at 33% … of church-going people. John 20:9 reads: “… for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Either he did or he did not. What if he didn’t?
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, well … have you considered a career in the intriguing world of automotive sales? Computer repair? Dog walking? Or perhaps you have a law or medical degree tucked away somewhere you can use.
If you think there actually might be something to the notion of the risen Christ being on par with the Easter bunny or Frosty the Snowman, you’re wasting my time. While you’re at it, why not cheat on your taxes. Who cares? The IRS, after all, is imaginary, too.
Whatever you do, though, don’t waste your parishioners’ time. It is the great unpardonable. And they will clean your clock for it. Please, leave the ministry before you cause too much damage—while you still have a chance. If Jesus did not rise and usher in a new agreement for us all, surely you can make more money doing something else with your life for a lot less hassle. Still toying with the idea of that Ph.D .in psychology? Go for it. Those clergy conferences are a bloody bore anyway!
But if you happen to believe—to hold on to the idea that, despite the misery around us—that guy from Nazareth really pulled off a big one, you’re in the right job.
My second great-grandfather, The Rev. Joseph Wiggins—who spoke at Chief Junaluska’s monument dedication—had, according to his obituary, “an iron jaw.” Joe was a circuit-riding Methodist minister and Second Calvary chaplain. The obituary reads: “He was ever fearless in speaking the truth … his life was often threatened and sometimes attempted” (it’s in the genes—what can I say?). It further says “He knew no compromise with evil in any form. He didn’t study about how he could live or how much he would receive for his labors. His salary was always pitifully small. He cultivated the crops he could to supplement his salary.”
I think Joe did this (while supporting a family of eight) because he believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Joe, with his meager means, evidently “understood the scripture.” More importantly: he believed. Cultivate your crops—your people. You don’t have to have an iron jaw. But if you know no compromise with evil, you will continue to believe. And so will your flock.
I take from this passage a great lesson: We have to be above, we have to avoid, the nonsense we encounter every day. God knows there are plenty of opportunities for us to get trapped in the trivial.
Colossians 3:2 states “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. In other words, keep your head up. Some people, for various reasons, are going to try to keep you down. Jealousy, ignorance, or just plain meanness are things many of us may encounter on a daily basis. Also, as liberal Christians, we are going to have to endure a great deal of misunderstanding, particularly from the larger conservative Christian community in this country. We may not be considered Christians by some because we actually believe that the bible is wrong about women and their roles in society and the church, or about gays and their roles in society and the church as well. We have to keep our heads up and stick with our convictions. These people are small minded for the most part, unwilling to see or even consider another point of view. What can we do? The answer is to rise above the pettiness, and don’t let them shake our faith. Our faith is sustained by Christ. What every person says about you, or believes about you, is not important. What is important is what God believes about you and what you believe about yourself. You do not have to defend yourself to every person who crosses your path.
Keep your mind on doing the work of Christ—helping the poor, feeding the hungry, counseling and helping find homes for runaway gay teens; helping abused women escape their Hell and start a new life, ministering to those who are poor and those who are poor in spirit—and don’t worry about the narrow minded folk who disagree with you.
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