This could be a continuation of the previous week’s theme. There the emphasis was on seeing; here it is on touching. Jesus is trying to ground the disciples’ faith in the reality of his presence, in the concreteness of his being. He told them to touch him; he ate in front of them. He was announcing that he was real. What can we provide, what hands-on proof can we give that Jesus is alive among us? Of course, we have been in a pandemic and touching is still not something we want to engage in. But we can still give examples of lives being touched, hearts being touched.
Maybe the emphasis is on feeding, since Jesus ate that piece of fish as a way of proving his presence. Maybe we talk about food banks or feeding programs; maybe we remind our members of the tradition of potlucks – perhaps they began right here as part of the Resurrection story of Jesus! Who knows what has happened to potlucks in our current climate, but there are safe ways of sharing meals together. Maybe an at-home potluck could be a common menu that everyone prepares on their own, and pictures are shared of each family or individual partaking in that “shared” meal. Or maybe you could put together packaged meals to share in your neighborhood, especially in those areas of food insecurity, as a way of letting people touch and see. Meals could be dropped off at each house with a note and a wave.
But that would be outside of the context of worship, so what could be done in the context of worship around these ideas? One of the functions of worship is to inspire people to service. So, if the church hasn’t settled on a specific program or project, then worship could be a place to raise ideas, to challenge worshipers to think creatively about feeding programs.
The emphasis of Native American Ministries for this week will affect some congregations more directly than others. Every congregation can become more aware of the real situation of First Nations people in various parts of the country, and every congregation can certainly participate in supporting vital ministries in those areas. Provide information about various ministry opportunities. Click here to view ResourceUMC’s information about previous Native American Ministries Sundays.
We hope to provide liturgical resources from our Native American brothers and sisters. Incorporation of these prayers or litanies would help bridge the understanding gap between our churches. This is part of what it means to touch and see. Touch another tradition; touch another perspective; take hold of something that takes you out of yourself long enough to embrace the realities of another’s existence. Overcoming racism is an ongoing process of education and a constant reminder that embracing those of a difference race or ethnicity involves stretching ourselves and our practices to include and embrace diversity. We are challenged by our bishops to continue the task of ending racism in us and in our society. This emphasis is an important opportunity to embrace that challenge. Again, our world is asking us to show our faith by how we choose to live it. The way we encounter those unlike us is one way we have of grounding our faith in the reality of this world. Touch and see.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.