Friday, March 11, 2016

Deeply Touching

Daily(ish) blogging in Lent - Day Seventeen
Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!” Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. - John 20:26-27

In his book Corpus (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008; page 11 & 131), Jean Luc Nancy makes a simple observation, one that I have found quite helpful for understanding taste and emotions. When we say something makes sense to us, he says, what we are also saying, perhaps more than anything else, is that that thing makes sense in that it touches upon something in us. It “touches upon,” and so “makes a sensation.” It touches us. It makes sense. 

Something that makes sense to me, engages my senses in some way. My senses are touched, stimulated; a poem is touching, a great speech touches on something I’ve sensed all along, but have not yet been able to articulate. It brings to words, to expression, to art, to articulation, to communication, something I have only felt, sensed for myself. When something makes sense to me, I feel touched, and, touched, I remember that I am not alone. My sense is shared. We find a poem, a song, touching, sensational. We share a meaningful time, a touching moment. 
What is it that “makes sense” to us in regard to our fears? Our inner hatreds? 

Those, too, when touched upon create a sense of meaning in us, of self righteousness, of a willingness to fight, of devotion for the artist who expressed them so eloquently. We turn to politicians, to dictators who artfully name the fears we have only ever felt, sensed deep within. We do awful things to one another. We kill. We separate. Imprison, institutionalize. We build walls, name borders. We “keep safe,” “keep peace,” with violence, with guns. Peace with violence! Because our fear was touched and we were moved by the artist who depicted our fears. So we bought his painting, her sculpture. But his art, her art, ends in a shattered mural, destruction, the absence of touching, sensing each other. We are all apart. All of us “othered,” a broken body. If we dig deeply, this fear, and its creation doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t touch on our deeper senses, our source, Love—to love and to be loved. 


“Peace be with you.” “Reach through your fear and touch me.” (John 20:26-27)

This is what Jesus says to those disciples locked up in fear, waiting for the Spirit or something to move them out of their locked rooms and into Creation. 


Vitor Westhelle once said that the word for peace in the New Testament can also mean something like adjacency, to go alongside, be alongside, next to.  Perhaps something like “togetherness” or “with-ness” be with you. (The Church Event; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010; page 129). Jesus calls the disciples beyond their walls, into adjacency, into touching

To be together. To sense one another. “Peace be with you.” “Touch.” 

Being together with others, being in community, in relationship, changes our senses. We like new things, new ideas, new music, new fashions and hairstyles and foods. Our tastes expand. We find new things to be touching. Our fears are transfigured. 

Those things we used to fear are now quirks and traits we love (or tolerate) in our new friends. If we can reach out, touch and be touched. Love, and be loved. 

This is difficult. But very possible. 

It means not looking to borders and guards for safety, but risking danger and vulnerability for the sake of something that makes more sense, deeper sense, something that reaches and touches through our fears and doubts, to a deeper place, that touches upon the very source and destination of our being, Love—“for God is love.” (1 John 4:8). 

To be touched by God, to be loved, to love through fear... 

What touches you? What really makes sense? What senses are touched? How does it feel?

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