Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(photo from Boston.com)

O wounded hands of Jesus, build in us thy new creation;
our pride is dust, our vaunt is stilled, we wait thy revelation:
O love that triumphs over loss, we bring out hearts before thy cross,
to finish thy salvation.

-Walter Russell Bowie (1882-1969)

It's ironic, I think, that on Christ the King Sunday, the Sunday that our goal is to be aware of "the reign of Christ's kingdom," our Gospel reading is a window of Luke's version of the crucifixion at a point where Jesus is at his most powerless, and his healing hands are nailed to the cross, unable to even wipe his own brow or scratch his own nose. The only thing his hands can do are act as anchor points as he strains upward on nailed feet to catch his own breath and remain alive.

It's quite striking to me that any act of physical comfort that Jesus could possibly attain in this setting is through the hands of others. In a few hours, it will be the act of other hands that will take him down from that cross and lovingly prepare him for burial. In John's Resurrection story, Thomas will hold and examine the nail holes in Jesus' hands. Belief in the resurrected Christ will commence because someone used their hands to examine the hands of Jesus, not just a pair of eyes.

Think about what we say about our deepest, most truest beliefs--we don't say we see them; we say we feel them.

Hands play a huge part in my dream world. My most comforting dreams often involve the sensation of hands locked in my hands, hands on my face, hands stroking my head or patting me on the back in a big hug. My most gruesome dreams involve mutilation of my hands or being party to the mutilation of the hands of others.

But Bowie's words above remind me of one of the miracles of grace: That somehow, God's kingdom is still maintained on Earth by the work of wounded hands. Sometimes I think it was the act of wounding the physical hands of Christ that underscored the perfect love that emanated from them--a love that could not be damaged, that holes could not cause the holy stuff inside him to leak out.

Yet so often we think our own hands are inadequate to complete God's work in his kingdom.

It's no secret that in my personal prayer time, I often look at my own hands. I know almost every cut, every scar, every divot, and can recall the stories that caused the injuries. I don't recall the injuries to the other parts of my body so well. I realize I have forgotten some of those stories. But I never seem to forget the stories of "what happened to my hands."

I watch them age. I realize my hands are starting to look more like my grandmother's hands did. But I often look at them in my prayer time and think, "God, what am I supposed to do with these? Am I doing your work with them? I just don't know."

But I have come to realize we don't find these things out until we let our hands touch others, either directly or indirectly.

I thought about that last week at the offertory at Trinity. Our Bishop's Committee turned in our pledge cards a week early to illustrate our pledges as an offering of ourselves. I sort of expected to just sort of plop it on the altar, and go back to our seat.

But our Priest Associate, who was presiding, did something wonderfully unexpected.

She asked each of us to place our hands over the envelopes over the altar, and it was an amazing thing to see all those hands sort of overlapping each other on top of the envelopes. Then she placed her hands on top of ours and prayed silently.

But it wasn't totally silent. I got the impression she was trying to stretch her hands in a way to touch the hands of each and every single one of our hands. That's no small feat because she has small fingers!

So in that sense, the prayer wasn't "Silent."

In that moment, it created this wonderful visual image of Christ's kingdom. Hands of all sizes, overlapping on a table where bread and wine would soon be consecrated in memory of Christ's own body and blood. Priestly hands on top of the hands of the laity--hands that could simultaneously bless people and consecrate gifts. Hands that when held in the orans position the ancient belief was that the Holy Spirit came down and occupied those hands to do all those things. The hands on the altar would return after "giving"--handing over pledge cards representing "Their life and labor" in God's kingdom--to "receive"--to take the consecrated elements and place them in the holy temples of their own bodies.

All those hands, going out in the world and doing work the rest of the week.

All those flawed hands...connected to hands that two thousand years ago, were nailed down in a vain attempt to keep immobile by nailing them to a cross.

It didn't work, did it?

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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