This past weekend was a very special time for our church and for our family. ENan was ordained as a deacon along with nine other individuals. For those of you not familiar with the term, “deacon,” it is a Biblical term that comes from two Greek words that mean “through dust.” The image is that of a servant faithfully following their master wherever the master leads.
In some churches, deacons have an administrative, decision-making role. At our church, deacons serve. They serve the Lord by serving and caring for members of the congregation. And beyond.
When someone is elected to serve as a deacon, they are ordained in a special service we call “laying on of hands.” In this service, fellow believers are invited to “lay hands” on the newly elected deacon and offer a prayer, a blessing or a word of encouragement. It is a sacred and powerful experience for everyone involved.
The ordination ceremony could be done without the “laying on of hands,” although we would have to call it something else, wouldn’t we? The words could be communicated from a distance or even remotely by zoom. But there is something about the element of touch that moves the experience to an entirely different level.
As I read through the gospels, I am struck by how many times Jesus laid hands on someone. He laid hands on children, on babies, on lepers, on the blind and the dead. The gospel of Luke records it this way, “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who were sick. He placed his hands on each one and healed them.” (Luke 4:40) We know that Jesus did not have to touch someone to heal them. He healed the servant of a Roman centurion long-distance without ever even seeing the man. (Luke 7:1-10) But more often than not, Jesus touched those who needed healing.
During Covid we have learned to meet remotely and greet from a distance, avoiding physical contact whenever possible. I am all in favor of taking precautions to avoid spreading illnesses. But every now and then we all need a hug or a handshake or a pat on the shoulder.
When we do it right, laying on hands is still a powerful thing.