Touch and Go

On the Move

My family took a very long road trip this past week. Out of necessity.

Some of you have travelled or will travel soon. I’m hearing of a few spring-break trips. I’m hearing of some of you taking trips cross country to visit elderly parents that you haven’t seen in person for nearly a year.

Some of you travel for work and you are physically managing to do that alongside Zooming every chance you get.

Our travel this past week was to move our daughter, a college senior, to an internship in Denver, Colorado. We raced to dodge blizzards both ways. But it was the first time in a year that our family has safely travelled an extra-long distance.

We were on the road and on the move. So, I suppose that is why, when I’ve reflected on this week’s gospel (Mark 1:29-39), my attention has been drawn to the end of this story.

After Jesus has healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, he spent the evening healing numerous other people who got word of his miracle and gathered at this woman’s doorstep. Jesus then went to a quiet place alone to pray the next morning. It seems he’s only been alone in prayer for a short time when his disciples come find him. They bring the news that the crowds have gathered again, in the same place, to clamor after Jesus with their needs. Everyone is searching for Jesus this next day.

Time to Move On

It’s here Jesus answers that he won’t be going back to this town. It’s time to move on to neighboring towns, Jesus says. It’s time to keep proclaiming God’s kingdom in words and actions in new places.

That’s because, Jesus says, “That is what I came out to do.” And so, Jesus moves on. He and his disciples move forward to new locations where Jesus preaches throughout Galilee and casts out demons.

This is a template for our own ministry. For those of us who are disciples of Jesus, who now carry on his ministry as the church, this can be our blueprint for ministry in our time.

Sharing a message of good news. Offering a healing touch. Raising up others to serve in Jesus’ name. Then moving on.

We’re to touch people and raise them up in Jesus’ name. Then, as Conduits of God’s grace, we’re to remain on the move.

Not-so-Small Touches

After a 1,000 mile drive, and many elevator trips, in masks, carrying bins of belongings, we moved our daughter Kristen onto a large downtown campus in Denver.

It was a bit surreal with college classes being virtual. No cars in any of the campus parking lots, no giant groups of students roving around between classes, no students sitting together studying or hanging out in dorm lounges.

Yet, on every dorm room door, there were printed names of students living in the building where our daughter will live for a few months. There were students everywhere. They were just confining themselves to their rooms.

As we masked parents and daughters unpacked boxes in the new room, a knock came on their dorm room door. In the hallway stood two masked young women with cards and wrapped chocolates. They introduced themselves as the students living next door – stopping by briefly to give our gals a remarkably kind welcome.

It was a touch. And they moved on. What a small yet meaningfully large, lovely hello, to some weary daughters and parents for whom that welcome will always be remembered!

That’s the silver lining of COVID-19, isn’t it?

Brief encounters work wonders to lift our spirits. Human interaction and kindness can abound. All that’s needed is a touch of caring, healing, encouragement – and then we move on.

I hope the after-effects of this pandemic will continue to push us to new ways of thinking and serving – in touchstone ways – outside the boundaries of church walls. As individuals we carry God’s kingdom and God’s grace in the name of Jesus. How do we touch people with the love and hope of the gospel – and then move on? In the near future, how can we touch people with God’s grace and then keep moving on?

This past week, my family was touched in so many ways by people who offered us a bit of love and moved on. One set of friends sent an email of encouragement to we parents. As we said goodbye to our young adult daughter, their note reminded us that, as we launched Kristen in a location that is farther from us and Madison, WI than she’s ever been before, there is a whole team of people loving her – and us! There is a team of people praying for her and caring for her near and far.

One morning in Denver, David and I met outdoors with a retired couple who are relatives of mine. They’ve offered to be on-call if there would ever be an emergency while Kristen is in Denver if she’d need someone’s help in person.

And then, as though icing on the cake – and as those of you who remember them would expect – my former colleague and our former pastor, Pastor Rod Hank and his wife Janet, reminded us that they live just 25 minutes from Kristen. If she ever has time to visit or if she ever needs anything, Pr Rod and Janet will be there in a flash for our daughter.

Touches all around us. Nothing more was needed. We felt lifted up and loved. People on the move meeting us. And we moved on too.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to touch, heal, offer hope and love. Then keep moving. God will do the rest.

Jesus Needs Our Help

Mark’s gospel tells us today that the point is not that Jesus must fix everything or everyone in Galilee before he will be arrested and his life comes to an end.

As the gospel story continues, Jesus will be more than a healer. Oh, he will continue to heal people, but Jesus won’t be able to keep pace with the incredible demand that human need places upon him. So, he will commission others to assist in his work.

We carry that commission. Sometimes we are recipients of Jesus’ life-changing touch. Yet just as often, we are the ones who are called to offer that touch to others.

Sometimes it is bringing healing of various sorts.

Sometimes it is preaching words of promise or challenge.

Sometimes it is noticing people in our pathways, whom we can serve.

Sometimes, it might even be casting demons out in Jesus’ name.

Whatever his work among us, we are followers of Jesus who are on the move to be glimpses of the gospel for others to see.

Look for where you can be that touch of Jesus, who lifts another person up and restores them – as you go about life’s way. This is how we follow Jesus. He’s on the move to all who await the touch of his good news.

Thanks be to God! Amen.