Reflection for Compline 25th March 2024

Monday: Hands

Come see his hands and his feet, the scars that speak of sacrifice, hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered.

Hands pierced by nails, great clumsy pieces of iron hammered in with brutal power, hammered in with thoughtless uncaring cruelty; each blow struck with deliberate force tearing through flesh, bone and sinew; blood and skin scarring the hands of the executioners. Nails that pinned Christ’ hands to the cross seemingly denying him all freedom as they held him there, fastened in time and space. Nails that rendered him helpless, impotent; nails that made him an object of derision for all those who, as they passed by, could only see a criminal, a trouble- maker a man who deserved his fate suspended in an eternity of suffering.

These were the hands that Mary and Joseph would have marvelled and wondered over when he was first born. The tiny perfectly formed hands of the new -born infant ready to curl around a finger or clutch the mother’s breast; each finger, each tiny nail perfect and unblemished. The little thumb that maybe he sucked for comfort as he slipped into the dreamless sleep of the newborn.

Look at your hands carefully and think what they mean to you; each individual finger, the thumbs; all ten digits shaped by your life and by all the different things you have asked them to do for you. Look at the palm crisscrossed by lines and the back of the hands where the blue veins show the life bringing blood coursing through. Maybe there are scars from some accident or mischance that you can still recall, remember still your pain, your blood or your shattered bone. Maybe too there are the brown blotches speaking of the dignity of age; the years that have passed since your hands were those of the newborn infant. Look at your hands carefully and reflect upon what they mean to you.

These were the hands that began to form wood, shaping it with care making the yokes that fitted with ease causing no discomfort to the animal upon whose back they were laid. The hands of a craftsman, agile and skilful, rough workmanlike hands scarred here and there by the slip of a tool or the splintering of wood. Hands that were useful, whose skill was admired by those who understood his trade, but these were not the hands of a king, these hands were never smooth, nails buffed, adorned with jewel studded rings. These hands never knew the luxury of rich ointments being lavishly rubbed into each crack and crevice. These hands were never manicured; these hands only knew the dignity of humble work and the creative power of shaping wood into an object of tactile beauty. These were the hands of a servant; the servant who came in humility to serve the world.

Look at your hands. What things have they created with intricate skill? A piece of needlework or pottery, a painting, a child’s shawl or a thick sweater.? Think of how you use them day in and day out almost unthinkingly as you carry out well practised routine, the routines of a servant? Use them to wash, to cook, to garden, to clean, to carry, to write, to cut and to shape. Look at your hands and marvel at what they have done for you.

These were the hands that reached out to touch people, men women and children. These hands reached out to the untouchables; the people that no one else would ever consider making contact with; the lepers with weeping sores shunned and feared; the beggars, dirty louse infested, stinking; the demoniacs, raving wildly in their mental confusion, terrifying to those who could not enter or understand their distress; the dying and the dead reminding the living of their own mortality. These were hands that held all the mystery, the wonder, the glory of God’s healing; these were the hands that brought comfort, reassurance, a new life, hope for the future; these were the hands that brought healing to body, mind and spirit to those who sought it.

Look at your hands. When have they reached out to heal, to comfort, to support? When have they reached out in selfless love? When have your hands held those of the ill, the vulnerable, the confused, the frail and the dying? Can you think of the warmth of those contacts; the flowing of love between your hands and theirs. And when have you been touched by someone’s hands and felt the enveloping comfort and healing that they bring? Look at your hands and thank God for the healing that has flowed through them.

These were the hands that held small children within their comforting grasp; honouring them as true children of God; showing them the friendship of God, the closeness of God. These were the hands that were lifted in blessing. Hands bringing God’s blessing, God’s peace to the poor, the needy, the frightened, the abused and the sinful.

These were the hands that helped lift brimming fishing nets from the deep waters of the lake; the hands that touched five loaves and two fish that they might become the food of thousands. These were the hands that were lifted again and again in prayer as he sought the source of all life and the power of the Spirit.

And these were the hands that took bread, blessed it and broke it saying ‘Take this is my body’ So too he took in his hands the cup of wine and gave thanks and gave it to his disciples saying ‘This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many.’

Look at your hands and recall how they have been used to help and assist others. Remember the times that they have held small children lovingly safely in their grasp; the times when they have worked in conjunction with the hands of friend or stranger. Look at your hands and recall receiving into them Sunday by Sunday the body of Christ. Look at your hands and know just how they have been blessed by the hands of Christ himself.

A Baby’s hands in Bethlehem were small and softly curled
But held within their dimpled grasp then hopes of half the world A Carpenter’s in Nazareth were skilled with tool and wood:
They laid the beams of simple homes and found their labour good. A healer’s hands in Galilee were stretched to all who came
For him to cleanse the hidden wounds or cure the blind and lame.
Long, long ago the hands of Christ were nailed upon a tree
But still their holy touch redeems the hearts of you and me.

Leslie Savage Clark

Rev’d Virginia Smith / 25th March 2024

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