“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.