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do you need a hug?

in worship this month we've been looking at the great commandment (that the greatest thing in all the law is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength) and applying it to our worship.  what can it mean to love God in such a holistic way as worshipping people?  this last sunday i preached specifically about the "strength" part.  how do we worship God with all our strength?  it is an interesting question, i think, especially for those of us who seem so afraid to use our bodies in worship and seem more content to practice what you might call "neck-up" worship.  something to think about, for sure. 

but as i was thinking about this, i began thinking about the power of human contact.  i began to reflect on the redeeming value of a hug, or the hospitality of an extended hand.  i read about the healing power of human touch for those who are sick.  i reflected on how, when Jesus healed people in the Gospels, he often touched them.  i thought about how when i'm feeling sheepish or guilty, my pride gets in the way and resists human contact or affection.  and then i thought about the prodigal son.  my mind often goes back to that story that the Master told.  the story of the boy who asked for his inheritance, then took the money and ran.  the story tells of how he squandered all that money and when he had finally hit rock bottom, decided as a last ditch effort to try and go back to his father to see if he would receive him as a slave.  and this is where the story gets all kinds of crazy.  the bible tells us that "while he was still a way off" his father saw him approaching (do you think the father had kept one eye always looking down the road, just in case?).  and the story goes on that the father ran to him.  he didn't wait for an apology.  he didn't measure his response.  he didn't consider dignity and justice to be first priorities.  he ran.  unapologetically.  and when he gets to his wayward son, all out of breath and sweaty, you know what the bible tells us he does?  he reprimands him?  nope.  he settles his score with him?  nope.  he does something unimaginably awesome: he hugs him.  he wraps him up in touch, in warmth, in undignified, unbridled fatherly love. 

parents do that, you know.  especially a heavenly parent.  when the child is struggling, weak or burdened, the parent wants to help.  when the child is broken, barely able to keep going, the parent runs to the child, wraps him up in an embrace, and moves into the future alongside him.  too good to be true?  you might think so.  but watch this:

see what i mean?  if we can identify with that kind of love, then how much more do you think God is constantly running to us, coming alongside us, and holding us in a tender but life-giving embrace?  as radical and unbelievable as it is, it is exactly what Christianity proposes. 

so will you dare to believe it?  even if only with a tiny bit of belief, like a tiny little seed-sized bit?  it's okay.  alot can come from a seed. 

and if you believe it, how will you respond to it?  will you worship this Godparent who runs to you, who sheds all dignity and crashes through security to get to you, ignores your sheepish pride and holds you in a wild embrace?  and how?  how will you worship this God?  with your thoughts and your motionless body?  or will you find someway to wrap your arms around your Daddy, put your head on his shoulder and face the future together? 

"we love because he first loved us"  1 john 4:19

"love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." mark 12:30


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