An open hand. That is an image that comes to mind when I think about Jesus. An open hand symbolizes many things; the welcome to the newcomer, the warmth of the familiar, the offer to walk together, the offer to serve, the opportunity to connect, and more. Our hands are not always welcome, sometimes this is because we are not ready, we need time to heal and rest, to work through things. Perhaps we simply cannot be open to a certain person due to the circumstances, the baggage of the past. We pray that someone else can be open to that person we cannot offer relationship to. But we do want to open our hands to others and others want to open their ands to us.
Our faith journey is a relationship and these relationships need a beginning. The open hand is a beginning, a continuation and an offer to restart that which has been delayed or interrupted. Too often we think of the open hand as a symbol of a task, something someone can do for us, something we can do for the other. But deeper than the task is the intent and the spiritual connection and that is what can sustain us throughout our journey. The image of someone or something holding us as we walk through our challenges is what makes life worthwhile. At the end of our life what we recall and treasure are those moments of connections, those relationships that mattered, and those revelations of deep joy when we knew we were part of something much greater than ourselves.
I remember in seminary watching evangelicals and liturgical types opening their hands, palms up, as they sat ready to pray. I had never seen this before, this posture of openness, attention and expectation, when we await the presence of the Divine. I have tried this way of prayer a few times, sometimes it has been very powerful and I have felt the Spirit in an immediate way. Other times it was just so different I was too self-conscious. But more and more I think opening our hands in prayer is a wonderful posture to experience the mystery of being filled with God’s love.
Two scriptures often read at funerals remind me of the open hands; the 23rd Psalm and John 14. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… The idea of God as a shepherd, leading us, holding our hand, taking us where we need to go but doing so in solidarity and community. An open hand to that spirit is such that we are ready to be guided in our journey. John 14 reminds us that in God’s house there are many rooms. In the early church the reminder of Jesus’ presence was the meal, the house church ate together and then celebrated Jesus with the Eucharist. At the table we arrive with open hands, open hearts and open minds to be filled by the Divine, to be filled by Jesus.
Throughout our day we can remind ourselves, are we opening our hands to others, to God, to the opportunity to be part of what the Spirit offers? I find myself looking at my hands, wondering if they are open or closed, if they offer relationship or distraction, if they demonstrate service or a clenched frustration.
Open our hearts to the presence of Jesus. Amen.