This past week I was in Iowa for a Mennonite Camping Convention. Meeting with Camp Folk who are passionate about nature, campers, and their faith is always a highlight, and this year was no exception. A highlight was officiating at communion, inviting all ages to the table and offering those who were not yet baptized a blessing and a cracker so they could taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 32:8). The blessing was a type of anointing. There was no oil, but it was an honour to touch their foreheads and convey God’s blessing of them through the touch of my hand and the sound of my voice quoting a scriptural blessing.
After a 17 hour van ride back home with ten of these exceptionally fine camp folk, it was great to be back home, even if it meant returning to a land of slowly melting snow.
On the weekend my husband preached on the theme of anointing. He opened the sermon by remembering special touches of affirmation he had received in his life as a Christian and as a Mennonite administrator. Some of them included oil being applied to the forehead in the shape of a cross. All of them included affirmation and blessing. We were challenged to think about the times in our lives when we had either given or received such blessings, some as simple as an affirming touch on the shoulder. it reminded me of this happy moment.
His sermon, my experience of officiating at communion, and this week’s theme all made me think about the importance of touch. Touch can heal as well as harm, and as one who organizes events for children in the church, I have been well trained to minimize the risks of harmful touch. As one who has had sprained muscles and broken bones, I also know that healing touch can be painful.
The real difference in healing, anointing, or harmful touch lies in its intent. Healing touch and anointing is one in which life-giving love is transmitted for the benefit of the recipient. In the case of anointing, the added element is the awareness of divine love and empowerment for Christian service. Anointing is not common among us, but I think it could be a powerful antidote to the fear of being touched that can so easily develop as we seek safety from harmful touch.
I hope this week will include the receiving and giving of healing, life giving, empowering touch for you. And I hope that in those touches you will sense the presence of our healing, life-giving, empowering God.