Doubting Hands

Hands Poem

Hands –

Hands meeting in high five

A Hand shaking another hand to finalize an agreement.

My grandma’s hands snipping green beans, stitching or quilting

My daughters hands learning to wave goodbye

Mark’s hand waving the baton

The hands of the pianist tickling the keys

Hand furiously writing

Hands diligently cleaning

Hands sculpting, painting, forming.

Many Hand’s rising as fists signaling liberation

Too many Hands as fists striking in confrontation.

Hands shaking and sweating nervously before a presentation

Knuckles anxiously cracked in a meeting filled with unknowns

Hand overused and and tired

Hands sore from arthritis

Hands sowing seeds and in the soil

Hands calloused from using tools, moving heavy objects

Hands scared or maimed from mistakes, accidents, moments we relive in our minds

Hands holding a loved one in a moment of grief.

Hands slowing going cold as one takes their last breaths

Hands clasping in prayer in a loss of words

A reflection of my own hands

When I was in middle school. I wanted to make my favorite dessert. Cherry Delight. If you are not familiar with cherry delight, it is like a cherry topped cheese cake simplified. To make cherry delight, you need something to beat the whipped cream, cream cheese, and sugar together into a light fluffy irresistible dessert. I placed the ingredients in the electric mixer. Plugged in the mixer. And began placing the beaters into the mixer. In the process of doing this, I bumped the on button. The beaters turned on catching my fingers inside of them and twisting them all up inside of them. I screamed for help. My mom came over and turned off the beaters, pulled my fingers out, and I slowly passed out to the floor.

Thankfully, my hands were only in pain, and were not permanently affected. Lesson learned, do not plug in the mixer and then place the beaters in the mixer.

Some folks have stories about their hands that are less lucky. Losing them in factory accidents. Losing fingers in woodshops.

Hands tell stories. We can look at our own hands – the creases. The scars. Or even the absence hands. What you went through in life, your hands did too.

Our passage today is a story about hands. But before we get to the part of the story of hands, we need to reflect on what happens in the story, right before that.

Jesus breathing the breathe of life, commissioning

Jesus in our passage, has risen, and is appearing to his loved ones. Jesus appears among his disciples behind locked doors. He shows them his hands, and his side, and the disciples are overjoyed at his appearance.

He then breathes on them and says, “receive the holy spirit.”

With a simple breath, he breathes on his disciples, like God giving breath to humanity in Genesis.

And while humans exhale carbon dioxide, the movement of the air, of the spirit, pushed our sacred earthly element oxygen, important to life, into the disciples lungs. Into their blood streams. Down to their toes. Up to their brains. And stretching down to their hands, filling their palms, filling their fingers with life. Reminding them that the holy breath of God resides in them. That the holy spirit is in their very hands.

Jesus is commissioning his disciples for their journey ahead – one that Jesus will not be a part of as an individual human, but in the form of the holy spirit – infused in the bodies of his followers.

This is not the first time in the Gospel of John that the spirit referred to as breathe or wind

Jesus Tells Nicodemus in John 3 – “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

When Jesus breathes his holy spirit onto his disciples, he is asking them to continue the work that he was doing. To continue his ministry. Into you the very reader of the gospel, ready to follow Jesus.

Your hands are Christ’s hands

You the reader. The followers of Jesus, are infused with the holy spirit in your very hands. Middle ages mystic St. Thresa of Avila writes “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours.”

This isn’t a quote that means it all up to you now. That its your hands that have to save the world.

I remember in college struggling with this. I remember feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t praying enough. I wasn’t listening deeply enough. What if I missed what God was bringing about on earth. What if I missed what God was calling me towards at the moment.

I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I was doubting myself, and I was doubting that I could do what God would call me to do.

I told this to one of my professors at EMU, and she reminded me that we do not bring about the kingdom of God on our own. We do not do things for God from our own power, but we do things with God.

Not for God. But with God. With the power of the holy spirit breathed into each of our lives.

This is something that I still struggle to have faith in. And I don’t think its too different from the struggle of Thomas in the second half of our story today.

Thomas sees Christ’s hands

Thomas was not there that evening locked in the room with Jesus. He did not see Jesus’ hands.

When the disciples told him of that evening, Thomas said that he wouldn’t believe unless I saw it for myself.

Good ole Doubting Thomas – a guy that I have had a grown fondness for, inspired by his skepticism, and his deep longing for truth.

A week later, while the disciples were once again locked in the house again, this time with Thomas, Jesus again appears to them and says “peace be with you!”

He then goes on to Thomas and says,, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus points to the scars in his hands where he was presumably nailed to the cross. While the Gospels never outright say the Jesus hands were nailed to the cross, it is common thought in our tradition now, as most outrageously demonstrated in Mel Gibson’s movie “the passion of the Christ.”

The idea of damage done to Jesus’ hand is so striking because of how important hands were in that context to being human. Folks with leprosy at the time would loose fingers, and were outcasted in society. To not have an able body meant a life of marginalization and suffering.

But Jesus no longer has able bodied hands, even in his resurrection. His hands were maimed. Scared. Broken. With holes in them. God’s hands are not the idealized hands of the able bodied.

Disabled God

Nancy Eisland her in book, the Disabled God, points to Jesus’ disabled hands as a moment of solidarity between Jesus and those with disabilities.

In our culture of white supremacy, the perfect body is white. Itss male, its muscular, able bodied, able to walk, use his hands. His body exists with ease. Not to different from our images of Christ in our stained glass.

But When God is white, white is God.

When God has an abled body, then the abled body is God.

But the reality is, no one in this room has that perfect body. In this room we have a huge diversity of ability. Hands that can lift move large pieces of furniture. Hands that gracefully play the violin. Hands that can draw and write beautiful calligraphy. But they will not always be hands that can do such things. These hands are temporarily able. For a short time. They will slowly become hands that can no longer lift. No longer play. Those of you who are much older know this. There are hands in this space of those who cannot write. Where arthritis and other issues make one’s hands painful. Unable to do the things they once did. Hands that drop things. Hands that frustrate oneself.

In our story today, these are the hands in which resurrected Christ is recognized. Not the hands of the good shepherd holding the sheep.

I am not even sure if they are hands that can knock on a door.

They are the hands of survival. Not of the perfect white temporarily able bodied male hands

Those of you who’s hands have changed, you know what I mean. Hands that you pray will not break if you fall. And yet we all fall. We all break.

These are the hands of God.

Not even Jesus Christ resurrected has this idealized body

I have been in conversation Ray, Carrie, and most recently Mike Edmiston about creating a ramp to get up to the front of the sanctuary. A tastely built path that will allow walkers, wheelchairs to easily make their way to the choir loft or the pulpit. Mike has begun imaging what this might look like. And of course before anything would happen, we would bring it before the congregation to get feedback about and vote on it.

This ramp is a path that does not place value on a person if they can walk up steps. Or if they can hold a lamb in their hands like Jesus depicted in our beautiful stain glass right above where the path will go. But a path that looks more like the resurrected Christ, who’s hands are maimed and side is stabbed. A path that looks more like who we are community is here, with all kinds of different people, different hands, different feet, and different abilities. The resurrected Christ, with holes in his hands and side, is in all of these differently abled bodies in this room. And we value each and every one of these voices in our community, whether they are singing or speaking upfront.

Don’t doubt Christ hand – Its not all up to you

Christ Breathed the holy breath into the disciples lungs. Into each of our lungs. The breathe of Christ is in each of us. In hands big and small. Temporarily able, and folks with no hands. These are all the hands of Christ.

Take a look at your hands. Their creases. Their scars. Their deformities. These are the hands of Christ. Unlike Thomas, do not doubt these hands, for God goes with you, bringing about the kingdom with each of these hands and all of their differences. No matter the ability, you cannot do this work on your own. You cannot do this work for God. But is through God’s breath in each of us that we bringing about the kingdom of God, with the risen Christ.

Blessing of the hands Benediction

For a Benediction, I would like to give you all the blessing of hands. The Blessing of Hands is a practice that chaplains do in hospitals, for those whose hands and bodies are caring for patients. The Blessing of the hands is a dedication and reminder of the sacred work you are a part of in each of our contexts, with each of our differently abled bodies and hands.

So I invite each of you to hold out your hands. And if you do not have hands, you to look at your body. And I will offer a blessing.

God, Bless the hands and bodies of each person here. May they be an instrument of healing, kindness, and grace in this world. May your kingdom come, and your will be done. Amen.”

Go in peace.