Hospitals are going to herculean efforts to keep their patients and staff safe, and rightfully so. However, the inability to be present with those who are sick, perhaps even in the last hours of life, is especially troublesome for the church. Yes, we can make a phone call, maybe even be present via a screen, but those are inadequate fill-ins.
We are the people of incarnation. Jesus didn’t come to us virtually; He came to us in person. When the blind man in the ninth chapter of John needed healing, Jesus made mud and rubbed it on his eyes, giving him sight. When Jesus encountered the deaf and mute man in the ninth chapter of Mark, He stuck His fingers in his ears and touched his tongue, giving him eyes to see and ears to hear.
Jesus touched people to heal them, and His church is to do the same.
Customarily at Mafair, on the first Sunday of the month, we celebrate Holy Communion and offer anointing with prayers for healing. There’s nothing special about the bread, cup or oil. The extraordinary comes because Jesus is present in the ordinary. He’s in the bread and cup, offering the sustenance and grace we need for our Christian journey. He’s in the oil, offering healing deeper than words can convey. And most profoundly, in the most necessary of ways, He’s in the people gathered, as we touch one another, sharing in the ministry of reconciliation that He began on the cross.
This virus and all the forces of death conspire to rob us of the healing touch our God offers. It’s painful to live into that reality, but don’t lose sight of the truth Jesus brings. No amount of death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The inadequate Band-Aids we are using to soothe the wounds of isolation will eventually give way to the divine yet human touch we all need. We will return to a new normal soon. Until then, take heart. The same Jesus who walked out of the tomb, moved through locked doors, and shared table with His disciples on the first Easter, is more than able to bring His healing touch to the sick and dying during this sad chapter.
Adam Love is pastor at Mafair United Methodist Church in Kingsport.