Several years ago, the Rev. David E. Goatley had an appointment with his optometrist.
“I mentioned to her that I was having trouble distinguishing between dark blue and black,” he said. “I asked, ‘Is this colorblindness?’ ”
“It might help to get dressed with more light,” the optometrist answered.
Goatley was preaching at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service on July 12 in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “The Power of a Touch,” and his Scripture text was the Gospel of Luke 8:40-48, the story of the woman with an issue of blood.
There are several kinds of colorblindness, Goatley said. Sometimes people cannot distinguish between red, blue and green. Other people cannot tell the difference in gradation within a color palette, such as the difference between deep burgundy and fire engine red.
“Then there is the kind of colorblindness where people can’t tell the difference between love and lust,” Goatley said, “or in church, the difference between being in maintenance and being in mission.”
Other people can’t tell the difference between a push and a touch.
“There are a lot of pushy people around,” he said. “You may be one.”
The congregation laughed.
People sometimes use intimidation to compel someone to act, he said. They use threats, physical or psychological.
“There is no power in a push,” Goatley said. “There is no power in manipulating people or playing mind games. You might get your way for a while, but there is no power in a push.”
Other people use someone unjustly through exploitation, but “there is no power in a push.”
There is power in a touch, Goatley said. The woman in Luke’s story had been bleeding for 12 years. She defied protocol by being in the crowd and touching Jesus because she was considered ritually unclean.
She had heard about Jesus, and even with a crowd pressing all around him, she touched the tassels of his garment and felt healed. Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched me?”
“Her touch was done with humility,” Goatley said. “Do you know people who, no matter what you are doing, will distract you so they can be the center of attention? She just needed to touch Jesus and not stop him from what he was doing.”
The woman touched Jesus with integrity, not under false pretenses or with a fake facade. She was honest in her need for healing; she had courage to be authentic.
“Jesus felt the power go out of him, and he asked, ‘Who touched me?’” Goatley said. “Peter told Jesus, ‘There are a lot of people pushing you,’ and Jesus said to him, ‘I know the difference between a push and a touch.’”
When Goatley received the call that his mother died, one of the first memories he recalled was of her putting his head in her lap while they were in church and patting him to calm him.
As another example of the power of touch, Goatley told the story of an urban hospital in the midst of a drug crisis. Mothers were leaving their newborn babies because their addiction so overwhelmed them that they believed their children would be better off with someone else.
“Someone, probably a man, had the brilliant idea to build a contraption so the babies could nurse from a bottle on their own,” Goatley said. “The babies were developmentally delayed.”
“There is power in a touch,” Goatley said.
He said someone, probably a woman, “recruited people to hold and feed the babies, and they developed more on schedule.” Goatley closed his sermon with lyrics from Bill Gaither’s song, “He Touched Me.”
“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same,” Goatley said. “He touched me, oh He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul! Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”
The Rev. George Wirth presided. Kathleen Marsh, the new director of Knitting4Peace and a first-time Chautauquan, read the Scripture. For the prelude Joseph Musser, piano, Barbara Hois, flute, and Rebecca Scarnati, oboe, performed “Voices in the Danish Sky” by David Evan Thomas. The Motet Choir sang “Healer of Our Every Ill” by Ken Medema under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. The Lois Raynow Fund for the Department of Religion and the Harold F. Reed Sr. Memorial Chaplaincy provide support for this week’s services.