Our Hands…God’s Work
By Bishop Brian Maas
I know—officially, it’s the other way around. “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Has become an effective tag line for our ELCA.
Theologically speaking, the ‘official’ sequence is correct. For disciples, all things start with God. But every now and then, theologians are permitted to upend things to invite new—or renewed—perspective.
So often, I perceive people thinking along the lines of, “God’s got work to do, and we’re volunteering to do it.” Nothing wrong with that, except that it sort of ends up sounding like we’re doing God a favor. In fact, God is doing us the favor—which is why I think it’s good to turn the phrase around every now and then. And because doing so renews attention to our reality, and to its roots in the story of God’s people.
Our Hands. God’s Work.
Take a look at your hands for a moment.
Seriously. Do it!
What do you see there? Soft, clean, flawless skin? Callouses? Arthritically-bent knuckles? Scars? Interesting intersecting patterns of lines?
Now let me ask you—could those hands belong to anyone else?
No—they’re as unique as your fingerprints. As unique as you.
Our hands—unique, scarred, powerful, weak, capable, imperfect—God created them and granted them to us. And has followed up that favor with countless others, including the invitation to do God’s work.
Think of all the heroines and heroes of the Bible—how many of them were perfect? How many instead were, like your hands, unique, imperfect, reflective of life’s wear and tear, but ready for purpose? (hint: the answers are “none” and “all”).
In the same way that throughout scripture God used imperfect, damaged, and all-too-human people to fulfill God’s will, for the sake of God’s people and God’s world, God uses us and our imperfect hands to fulfill that divine will still.
So look at those hands. Give thanks for them. And know that, no matter how capable or weak you perceive them to be, they are God’s gift to you and to the world, given to do the work God gives.
And the very One who gifts and calls us in this way is likewise scarred with identity and life—for our sake. “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16); “After he said this, he showed them his hands…and the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20)
God has done us the favor of gifting us with hands and bodies capable of all manner of activity, and inviting us into the divine work that never ends.
May we ever be ready to do God’s Work with Our Hands.