1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
It’s not really a scary passage, is it?
Except for the part I put in bold. As part of their commissioning into ministry, the two apostles receive the gift of touch in addition to the blessing of prayer.
Yesterday, some people I love very much at Good Shepherd laid hands on me to pray before a ministry event. Twelve people or so encircled me, laid hands on my shoulders, and prayed.
And my response was . . . painful? Twisted? Comedic? Anal-rententive? Protective of my personal space?
All of the above.
Which is more than a little ironic. Because one of the first ministries I brought to Good Shepherd was our healing services where we — hello! — anoint people with oil and pray by the laying on of hands. I’ve been on both the giving and the receiving end of what God does in prayer through the agency of human touch.
So yesterday, I didn’t have good reason to feel such discomfort. I just did.
Until I took a few deep breaths, overcome my space issues, and recognized what a treasure I was in the middle of: a caring Christian community who carries on an ancient tradition that links Godly prayer with human touch.
May their tribe increase and may my unease vanish.
Here’s a song that brings it home: