+ In Nomine Jesu +
"(Jesus said) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
One of the classic paintings of all time is Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam." Centered on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it depicts the outstretched hand of God reaching to touch the hand of Adam. The two hands never touch. Adam is only half-sitting up against the mountainside. He appears weak. His arm rests on one bent knee as if it is too heavy for him to hold up without support. The hand is bent over, the fingers are drooping, without energy, awaiting the vital spark of life from the hand of God. There is a tingling tension in the painting, an anticipation of that wondrous moment when God gave life to man by His divine touch.
From child-hood we were taught to use our hands to reach out to God, not as the great artist depicts, but, folding them in prayer. Thus, moved by the grace and mercy of God, with our hands, we offer prayer and praise to God, thanking Him for His forgiveness and for giving us life and salvation.
Beyond lifting our hands in prayer we also fulfill God's will by using them to bless and serve our neighbor. So it was that volunteer firefighters and first responders from the little town of West fought valiantly and selflessly to save the lives and property of their neighbors. And, of course, in doing so many of them paid the ultimate price.
Knowing that the horrific events of this past week, whether in West, or, in Boston, can happen to any of us at any time, with our hands we hold and embrace those we love. We strive with every fiber of our being to protect them and to shelter them from the ills of a world gone mad. And when we consider how powerless we really are to carry out our hearts deepest desire, with our hands we wipe the tears from our eyes and reach out again to God in prayer that He might, in His providence, do what we are unable to do. And should we suffer loss, we ask Him to keep us from cursing Him and turning away from Him.
Not all our weeks are like last week though, so, with our hands we receive the gifts of God, daily bread for our bodies and heavenly food for our souls. With our hands we mark ourselves + redeemed and blessed by God, remembering that we were first marked in such a manner at the fount of His grace, the fount of Holy Baptism. And we say thank you Lord that you have given my body and soul and all things. And thank you that you preserve them with fatherly divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me.
Our hands are marvelous instruments of thanks and praise. Sadly, however, moved by sin and rebellion, we raise them at times, not in praise, but in a fist pumping motion that God might feel our wrath and respond to our dissatisfaction with His will for our lives. With our hands we clutch what is ours in a posture of greed and self-determination. With the hand, theft is perpetrated and with the hand an attempt is made to turn a lie into the truth, the liar raising his hand to swear on all that is good and holy and right. And yes, with the hand, men of cowardice and seething anger build bombs to shatter the lives, the hopes and dreams of people who desire but to live in peace.
We respond, rightfully so, with shock and indignation at such acts of hatred, cruelty, and cowardice, and yet, we should expect such evil to be perpetrated upon us by the hands of men. Why? Well, because though magnificently and wondrously created, our hands, along with the rest of our bodies, are infected with sin, which, at it's worst, is displayed as anger at the world that God so loved that He gave His only-begotten Son" to save it. Remember, Jesus told us, "In this world you will have tribulation but take courage for I have overcome the world."
That sinners might be saved, and yes, including even those who maim and slaughter the innocent, in time the hands of Christ received the nails that justice gave. Having "become sin," He died a sinner's death, and yet, being Himself without sin, He died for those the likes of you and me, who, with our hands both praise and curse God. Thus, having been created once by the touch of God's hand, we are granted new life by the piercing of God's hands. Yes, "Many hands were raised to wound Him, none would intervene to save; but the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that justice gave."
Thomas, you'll recall, wouldn't believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he saw those nail pierced hands. Still possessing those marks of victory over sin, death, and the devil, Jesus satisfied Thomas' request, though He told us we are greatly blessed by believing though we haven't seen. Those same hands our Lord now opens to satisfy the desire of every living thing, giving us food and drink, all that we need to support our body and life, including the promise of life when death and the fear of death threaten to overwhelm and consume us. It is by that very promise that we know that though the world has gone mad and our lives are threatened continually, we will have our final victory in Christ. "Though devils all the world should fill all eager to devour us, we tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us, take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, let these all be gone, the victory has been won, the Kingdom ours remaineth."
Finally, it is by the hand of the one appointed to steward God's mysteries in the Divine Service that God gives you His own body and blood for your forgiveness and to strengthen your faith and trust in Him. He has promised you, that, as your Good Shepherd, no one will ever be able to snatch you from His hands. Not death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Jesus, be endless praise to Thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me,
For me, and all Thy hands have made,
An everlasting ransom paid."
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
Send Rev. Alan Taylor an email.