“You’re not a very tactile minister are you!” were the closing words after visiting someone a few years ago. Perhaps they expected a hug when I left. And whilst I know I’m not a ‘hug a vicar’ type of cleric, I’m really not averse to a hug or putting my arm around someone as a sign of my support for them.
Over the last few weeks as we have struggled to cope with how to respond to Covid 19. The handshake which in our Eucharist symbolically expressed our desire for reconciliation and to be at peace with our neighbours was suspended.
It’s felt strange not to enact the words with that simple gesture, for actions in some ways do, as saying goes speak louder than words.
In the Gospels many of encounters Jesus had with people involved touch.
He touched people to heal them.
He washed people’s feet.
He was a very tactile Saviour.
As people we are shaped by many factors but perhaps most of all for good or for bad by our parents.
Today we think especially of our Mothers, and of how they are woven into our story, how we learned from them something about the power of touch.
At birth a new child is placed in their Mother’s arms, confirming that unique bond established in the womb.
And from then on, Mother together with Father will show a child the way, Mothering them.
Offering them open arms when a hug when required.
A hand to hold as they learn to walk and navigate life.
A gentle touch when they’re wounded.
Actions, touch that embody of love. Make love more than word.
Today is a strange time for us all. We find ourselves using the language of isolation, avoiding touch, washing hands whilst singing happy birthday…twice.
Yet the need for love has not gone away. We just need to find new ways of embodying it.
New ways of expressing our solidarity and care for each other.
New ways of extending hands to each other.
So, just as Mary embraced her son, we need to find ways of embracing one another not physically but in how we live and love.
On the way out of church last Sunday, and since then via email and phone members of church family have told me that they would be willing to help in any way they could. It has been lovely to hear for simple acts of thoughtfulness and kindness will embody our faith at this time.
So, our hands can and will be put to good use.
Delivering bags of shopping or posting letters.
Our fingers can press the keys on a mobile key pad to send a message or call a friend or neighbour.
Simple things that make our love for each other more than a word.
Though coronavirus is foremost in our minds on Mothering Sunday our attention is drawn to our Mothers hopefully giving thanks for their role in shaping our lives.
As we think of them, we think too of Mary, Jesus’ Mother and of how she taught him about the power of touch.
In the statue we have of Mary in the corner, we see Mary holding Jesus not really embracing him as we might expect but instead presenting him to the world.
If you look, you’ll notice that his arms are outstretched too.
In the days to come this year’s celebration of His passion will not be the same and yet we continue to present him to the world as we open our arms to the world for him seeking to love and serve him in our lives.
In the words of the Mother’s Union prayer, said privately and at meetings it speaks of how “in love and service” members “reach out as hands across the world”.
So, we commit ourselves today to reach out across the world, and across this community.
For just as our mother offered her hand to us,
as Mary offered her hand to her son,
as Jesus reaches to us today
so, we shall reach out to all to friends, family, neighbours and strangers and together be the family of humanity that God intends.