Sermon, Sunday Sept/ 11, by Rev. Stephen R. Carnahan

“Touch Changes”   Luke 15

Sheep.  I don’t really know much about sheep, do you?

  • Domesticated over 10,000 years ago, which means we humans have shared our world closely with sheep.
  • In America our sheep are mostly kept in pastures, fenced in.
  • In many places in the world sheep still graze in the wild, guided and guarded by shepherds.
  • Shepherds have to be close to the sheep.  Can’t give them a map and a list of instructions.
  • A shepherd has to be close to the sheep.  Has to be in touching distance.  In Jesus’ time, practically lived with them.

Jesus the Good Shepherd.

  • That’s Good, not bad or indifferent.
  • Who loves and cares for the sheep.  Doesn’t treat them cruelly, but lives with them patiently, wisely, gently, but with strength when its needed.
  • Who cares for the lost one in particular, that one who has wandered off and gotten lost.
  • Jesus says he is like the Good Shepherd who, discovering a missing sheep goes and looks for it.
  • How many of you are thinking of the famous painting:  Jesus carrying the sheep, or reach perilously off a cliff to lift a lost lamb. 1878 Bernard Plockhorst
  • A shepherd must be hands on with the sheep.

 

Touch is important.

  • Our banner: These banners were made by the young folks of our church.
  • How about this one?
  • Humans have used touch as a means of communicating—love and care
    • It’s a natural thing for there to be touch between people who love and care for each other.
    • Liam taking my hand
  • Even our pets know it’s important.

But touch is problematic today.

  • Because of Covid—we don’t want to get too close.
    • I think of all the people who have had to be sick and even to die without the touch of a loved one’s hand.
    • How much pain has been created or increased simply because we couldn’t be in contact with our loved ones?
    • Touch has become problematic.
  • Because of sexual abuse
    • Here in the time of Me Too
    • Where we have stopped hiding from the fact that some people have used touch that was supposed to be loving to actually hurt others.
    • Now I find that I am suspect.  I dare not touch others.
    • The mere fact that I am male has made people look at me with anger and suspicion.
    • Walking past the playground
    • But I understand—too many people have used touch the wrong way.
    • It is I only dared pat students on the shoulders, even though some needed hugs.
    • But that’s how it is these days, with physical touch.

We also touch with our words and actions

  • I am sure any one of you can talk of someone who touched their life with words, or actions.  Someone want to testify?
  • This is our task—to touch people so they can be changes.
  • To help lost sheep we have to be close enough to touch.
  • If not with our hands then certainly with our words and our prayers.
  • But we have to get close enough to touch.

There is a Christian doctrine about this: Incarnation

  • We tend to think of God as up there somewhere.
  • The man upstairs.
  • God who watches over us, looking down on us.
  • God who is above and beyond all that we know.
  • That’s OK, and it’s true.

But the message of Christ is that God is not “up there.”

  • God is here.  Heaven is here, right in reach, right now.
  • Christ is God among us.
  • God is present in Christ and lives here among us, sharing our life.

Incarnation: to be in the flesh.

  • To wear the same flesh.
  • To go to the same places
  • To sink into the mud that people live in.
  • To go to the homes of the poor and to sit in the streets of the poorest.
  • To be where people are, not to shout at them from a distance.

It was wonderful when God gave the law to Moses.

  • Called Moses up to the mountain.
  • Appeared, and gave Moses the law for the people to live by.
  • But the people were down below.  Told not to approach the mountain where God was present.
  • It was a transcendent, powerful, terrifying and holy event.
  • But the people were down below.
  • And what we needed was not so much a law as a healing touch.

So God came to us.  Came down from the mountain.

  • Came to us as a baby in a manger, as a child, as helpless as any of us.
  • And lived among us.  We had not a boss, not a master, not a king—we had a shepherd.
  • Christ who lived as we live, who suffered grief and pain, who knew joy and love.
  • Who spoke to us with words that touched us and healed us and changed us.

And we have to do the same.

  • The story of Mr. Hill.

We must find ways to be close.  To understand what is happening with others.  To give us a pat or a hug when needed.  To speak words of peace and hope and truth.  To be in their shoes.