A congregation of the United Church of Canada
Take a moment and notice the position of your hands right now.
Palms down-turned or in a closed fist is our typical posture. Is that how your hands are?
It’s natural for us to want to keep control and keep a lid on things, so usually we live with our palms down. Then, when we’re in the midst of struggle or a fight we live with our palms clenched. When we want to hide or close ourselves we live with our palms in.
– And those are all good, and true, and proper, and correct responses for many situations.
But as people of faith our ultimate and deepest core sense of who we are and whose we are – our palms must be open and up – yielding, surrendering, offering, accepting, receiving. That’s faith.
When Jesus comes by us in the parade he wants us to wave our palms in the air – not branches waving to celebrate his power – but to wave the palms of our hands to God. It takes effort and vulnerability to turn our palms upward and open them to God.
And now we find ourselves on Good Friday thinking about palms again – only this time the palms that are open and upward for the glory of God are the palms of Jesus’ hands as they’re nailed to the cross
Palms of humility pierced by the nails of arrogance
– Palms of submission pierced by the nails of hubris
– Palms of openness pierced by the nails of closed-mindedness
– Palms of radical acceptance pierced by the nails of exclusion
– Palms of peace pierced by the nails of ignorance.
There he is – hung on a cross – palms open and upward to God – pierced by the cruel realities of the world. And here we are trying to make sense of it.
Is this what a life of faith leads to? – A cross?
Is this what an open palm leads to? – A piercing nail?
Even little kids learn that if you touch a hot stove you get burned – so you don’t keep putting your hand there. And yet we, as people of faith, open our palms over and over again and get pierced by the world over and over again. Usually our piercings aren’t as violent or dramatic as the ones Jesus endured – most times we’re pierced by the indifference of others, or their eye rolling, or their derision.
But why was Jesus pierced? Why was he crucified? – Because he was connected to a power that the world simply couldn’t comprehend – and when we don’t understand something that claims to be “better” for us we lash out at it to prove it wrong – because we couldn’t imagine that we could have possibly got it so wrong.
When confronted with the awesome power of an open palm the world responds with a closed fist.
It’s counter-intuitive that humility, submission, openness, acceptance and peace are the true means to greater power, conviction, passion, and a richer, fuller life – so we lash out and pierce them by relying on the comfort of our arrogance, our hubris, our closed-mindedness, our exclusion and our ignorance.
And so we’re left with this uncomfortable question.
How can we live as open-palmed people in a closed-fisted world?
Or is it? Maybe that’s the lie?
Maybe that’s the answer Jesus lived out for us as he went to the cross and died for us? – that this isn’t a closed-fisted world – it’s an open-palmed world that has lost its way.
It’s a world that discovered that the hammer of a closed fist can, in fact, greatly influence the world, but it makes every problem look like a nail…
When the truth is that the greater power is the open palm
– the open palm that holds a partner’s hand
– the open palm that strokes a child’s hair
– the open palm that caresses a lover’s skin
– the open palm that reaches out to help someone in need
– the open palm that extends greeting and welcome
– the open palm that dares to hold itself up and stop an unjust act.
Where’s the real power? – in the open hand – in palms that are offered open and upward to God. Such power is intimidating to the closed-fisted hammers and nails of the world – but while those nails may pierce our open palms and cause us pain, they cannot defeat us – even when it seems that the piercings are stronger, they are not the final word.
But we have to wait for that word. Right now, today, it’s enough to focus on our present reality – that, with Jesus, our open palms are pierced – and it hurts badly – but our reaction must not be to clench our fists in response, but to open our hands even wider and rely on a strength and power that is beyond us – like Jesus did on that Friday so long ago – a force so powerful that it has – and still can – change the world – the power of our open-palmed communion with God.