The Testimony of Touch

Listen here.

Who among you feels unclean? Perhaps you have a mental illness, and have learned to hide it. Perhaps you have thoughts or feelings which make you ashamed. Perhaps you have been touched in ways for which you blame yourself. Perhaps your identity is condemned by politicians, or the religious, or the mass media. Perhaps you are indigenous, raised to pass for white. Perhaps you are HIV-positive, and terrified of infecting others. Perhaps, like me, your hands erupt in eczema, and you often need to hide them. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. 

You don’t need a skin disease to live a lonely life; to suppress your fears and your shame; to hide your feelings or your identity; to learn to loathe yourself. You don’t need leprosy to believe that you are untouchable, unacceptable, to other people and to God. You often wonder whether healing and acceptance are even possible … but you doubt you deserve them. Are you willing to ask?

“If you want to, you can make me clean.”

says the unclean man. But does God really want to? Does God want to remove your guilt, your shame, your fear, and everything which marks you? Or are these feelings the natural consequence of everything that you’ve been told is wrong with you? Maybe loneliness is God’s judgement. Maybe it’s better to stay quiet, passing for ‘normal’ with your true self hidden from view.

But Psalm 30 is echoing around the room. And it praises an awesome God, “whose anger passes quickly, whose mercy lasts a lifetime.” Hold onto that: take a deep breath, and speak:

“If you want to, you can make me clean.”

And God wants to: for our God is a gracious god, whose nature is always to have mercy. And Jesus Christ, Son of God, is enraged at this world which pushes you to the margins, which fills you with self-loathing, which keeps so much of you hidden and ashamed. His guts wrench in anger and frustration and compassion, for Jesus wants above all things to make you clean, to make you feel clean, to grant you fullness of life and community and loving relationships. And he says:

“I do want to. I do want to: be clean.”

And he reaches out his hand, and touches you, and all the shame and fear and self-loathing … simply drain away. In their place you feel a rush of love, filling you up, making you whole. For in his touch, you learn: You are touchable. In his acceptance, you discover: You are acceptable. In his healing, you realise: You are loved. He says:

“Say nothing to anyone. Instead, be declared clean by the powers that be.”

You look at him; you see the love in his eyes. You think about the powers. The powers which close the doors of their churches to you or your children. The powers which use your identity in political games; which condemn and exclude and give away nothing. The powers which believe in ‘us’ and ‘them’, and which made you feel unclean in the first place.

Say nothing to anyone? Go to the powers? No. Absolutely no.

This is good news: not only for you, but for your brother, your sister, your neighbour, your friend. And as you share the good news, and reach out your hand to tell others, they too feel that surge of love, and acceptance, and healing; and so the word spreads like wildfire. Amen. Ω

A meditation on Mark 1:40-45 and Psalm 30. Alison Sampson, Sanctuary, 11 February 2018 (BP01). Image shows Niels Larsen Stevns Healing of a Leper. Found here.


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