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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Pansies at Village Farm Market 4/3/14
A hanging pansy/allysum arrangement at Village Farm Market near Ephrata, PA.
A sure sign of spring!

"The Blessing Of Touch"

Message summary: Today there are people all around you who need the compassionate touch of another caring person. What a blessing that Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched the leper”

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“Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him” (Mark 4:41). 

One of the many detrimental aspects of these last two years for many has been the impact of "social distancing". For those living with other family members this has not been as hard but for those in nursing homes or other medical settings it has been emotionally brutal leaving a devastating health impact as well in our view. (and not ours only *)

Several weeks ago we attended a visitation for a friend who had passed away. He was well-known in our community and many were in line to comfort his widow and pay their respects. We noticed how meaningful and normal this human interaction was that prior to the covid we had probably taken for granted.

There are many people, young and old, rich and poor, who live in loneliness and crave the human touch. Some of you reading this message know from personal experience just what I’m talking about. Let me illustrate this by sharing the following true story:

A widow lived alone. She made dinner every night for one and had conversation with none. Most of her closest friends had died, people rarely stopped by, and her phone never rang. She experienced a loneliness that grew day by day. She longed to fellowship with her brothers and sisters, to hear their conversation, and to feel their touch. Her fragile health forced her to be quarantined in her loneliness for a number of weeks.

One Sunday morning she mustered all the strength she could to dress herself and get ready for church. Her anticipation grew as she thought about how good it would be to meet with others again. She pictured herself receiving a handshake from the pastor; maybe a hug from her sisters in Christ. She needed to feel the warmth of someone’s flesh besides her own.

She attended the service but returned to her home even more desperate and lonely. You see, the people didn’t even notice her as they filed past her to get to their own circle of friends. No word of greeting, not one handshake was extended to this lonely widow. No warm conversation took place such as “We’ve missed you so much. We’ve been praying for you! How are you feeling?”

In the Bible a leper knew not only the physical pain of a dreaded disease but loneliness and isolation as well. In the Bible times leprosy was a disease that had severe social consequences. Throughout the Bible we read about this and can easily conclude that lepers would have extreme reticence in personally approaching or being approached by anyone. They were accustomed to being shunned; an outcast from their peers and even their families.

“A leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean” (Mark 4:40). This leper stepped out in boldness. Or perhaps it was desperation that led him to take the risk of being rejected or reproved publicly as he approached Jesus.

But our Lord did not turn him away nor did He instruct the disciples to remove the outcast. Instead Mark describes it this way, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him.” What Christ did in stretching out His hand and touching the leper was very significant. This man was so unaccustomed to the human touch that this loving act by the Lord must have been extremely meaningful, even if no physical healing had accompanied His touch (though certainly it did).

Try to imagine what it would be like to live devoid of the touch of other people, such as leprous people are consigned to. I am so blessed with a happy marriage (46 years this May) and so many other sources of compassionate human touch that I enjoy daily. In our home we regularly enjoy a family hug, where we essentially gather in a huddle and all hug at once. I know many of you have similar blessings which can easily be taken for granted.

Today there are people all around you who need the compassionate touch of another caring person. For many it’s a component to wholeness. They have a longing for someone to reach out and touch them, to pray for them and believe with them for their need. Perhaps you’re not within reach of the person God puts on your heart but a phone call, text or email may very well lift their spirit. We have opportunity to represent the body of Christ as we reach out to others physically and spiritually sharing our love and support!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Loving Father, would You draw to our attention people who go unnoticed or those like the lepers who are rejected by the “norms” of society. Put their face on our conscience so that we will take the time or make the necessary sacrifice to assure them that they are cared for. Show us how we can help shoulder their burdens. Prompt us to extend the loving touch that Jesus extended when He stretched out His hand and touched the leper mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. And remind us to faithfully pray for them which is an evidence of our genuine care. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: The true story we shared today about the lonely widow was in a church magazine we received weekly in the churches when Stephen was pastor. I must have read that about a year or two after he was ordained in 1979 and tucked that sad story away in my memory. It has greatly influenced me in the way I sought to greet people who entered our church doors every Sunday. I was always on the look-out for someone who might have been overlooked due to their quietness or sitting way in the back or for other reasons they might not have been greeted warmly by others. Now I apply it to our chaplain ministry. It's a story we all do well to keep in mind before we sit down in our own pew and forget that others might be there for more reasons than just listening to the sermon. They may have a deep longing just to be in fellowship with others in the body of Christ, just to know that their presence is felt and their absence is noticed as well.

* The hidden Covid-19 health crisis: Elderly people are dying from isolation

The lockdowns and visitor restrictions meant to protect nursing home residents from the coronavirus can also threaten their lives.

Here is a portion:

His death certificate listed the cause of death as "the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and social isolation/failure to thrive related to COVID-19 restrictions.”

Social isolation was listed as a contributing cause of death for at least nine other Minnesotans — almost all long-term care residents — from June to September, according to state death records; no deaths in the previous two years cited social isolation as a cause.

One of the nurses who treated Peske later described his deterioration as a burning candle with no oxygen left to draw from the air. It was as if a light had gone out, Roberg said: “He couldn’t survive from being isolated.”

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"He Touched Me"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

"People Need The Lord"  Video  Steve Green

"Is He Worthy"  Video  Sung by believers in Indonesia in their native tongue, outstanding scenery! Yesterday our long-time friend Laifong sent us this song along with an update on her ministry with Wycliffe. Laifong is from Malaysia and her husband Nigel were part of the church we served in New England in the 90's.

"Is He Worthy"  Video  English version by the songwriter Andrew Peterson

"Is He Worthy?/Hallelujah, What A Savior"  Video  Calvary Church Choir (This was the first time Brooksyne and the choir sang this song in our church.)

Finally today:

Bike ride with Sadie
I, Brooksyne, have been wanting to take Sadie on my new Ebike so Stephen attached a pet carrier of sorts (actually a crate) so I can take her with me. She's not terribly sold on the idea of being a passenger just yet. I'm sure she prefers that I take her for a walk on a leash like usual, but she is getting accustomed to it as we have taken her for short rides on our road and on the trail across from us. I took this photo yesterday as Stephen pulled into the driveway. As you can see she is looking at me as though to say, "OK, you can get me out of here now!"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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