Wendell Berry’s story “Pray Without Ceasing” begins with the narrator’s memory of his grandfather, who would sit beside him when they met, clap him lightly on the leg, and greet him by name: “Hello, Andy.” The shape of the old man’s hand remains with him “as vividly as a birthmark.” “This man who was my grandfather,” he muses, “is present in me.”* The passage reminded me of how our children’s grandfather laid his hand on their heads to bless them and how my mother would lay her hand on my shoulder as she listened to me read aloud.
Laying on of hands is a ritual that imparts blessing. In some churches deacons lay hands on the sick. In some, a bishop touches those being confirmed to ratify their commitment. In some, elders lay hands on those leaving for mission trips. In many, ordination is marked by laying on of hands. We need this sacred contact. While not all touch is healthy, sacred touch imparts blessing and has power.
Joshua was “filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.” Something charged with the grandeur of God** was transmitted in that gesture. It ordained and empowered Joshua and assured the community’s stability. We need this from one another—the touch that says, “We stand behind you. God’s own blessing comes to you through us, who love and care for you.” We have no way of measuring what such a touch may mean in another’s life, but we know from stories like this how a touch can connect us not only with one another but also with God.
*Wendell Berry, “Pray Without Ceasing,” Fidelity: Five Stories (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 4.
**Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (London: Penguin Classics, 1985), 27.
Source of all blessing, we ask that those we touch may be comforted, encouraged, and blessed. Amen.
The end of Deuteronomy completes the story of the life of Moses. Although he led the people out of Egypt, he is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he lost his temper in the desert. The difficult task of leading the people back to the land will fall to Joshua. The psalmist calls out to God for mercy because the people have been suffering as a result of their disobedience. Paul defends himself against the charge that he has been preaching out of a desire for fame or money. The approval he seeks comes only from God. Jesus has yet another confrontation with religious leaders attempting to trick him. He avoids their schemes and emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor summarize the entire law.
Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12. When has a leadership transition in your faith community been difficult for you? When has it been sacred?
Read Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17. How do you make God your dwelling place?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. How can you strive to love those whom you have never met? How can you meet new people with love as siblings?
Read Matthew 22:34-46. How do you wrestle with the Bible? When have your questions strengthened your faith or revealed something new?
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