Summary: Missions emphasis message; Jesus’ hands, bearing the marks of crucifixion, have lifted us out of sin and now empower us to reach out to places of pain.

I had thought that this past Wednesday I was going to get a little time to myself, maybe to sit down and read, or take a walk, or drink coffee on the deck, gazing into nowhere. I had thought there might be a little leisure, as somehow the calendar had no entries on it! But no!! She who has for 47 years brought both joy and jobs to my life had other plans. And the other plans were to dig up the accumulated dirt and gravel and other debris that had collected outside our basement door. Years of mire and muck had floated off the patio and onto the doorstep. Wednesday morning it became my fate to dig it out.

In fairness, though, I should say, she had not planned for me to do everything alone that was required to fix that sorry situation. I was to dig out the debris, yes, but our son was coming over at noon. Have you noticed that sons, though happily married and in their own homes, come over at noon, when Mom will fix lunch? Our son was coming over to lay pavers, and we must be ready. That meant hands in the dirt. Hands reaching out to lift this grimy accumulation and move it out of the way.

Why not just shovel it, you say? Why must your hands literally get into it? Because she who has for 47 years brought both joy and jobs to my life is also a saver. We discard nothing that might be useful. And since an earlier attempt to manage this spot outside the door had involved river rock, and that river rock was now all embedded in dirt, the task was not only to dig out this conglomeration, but also to reach in, by hand, sort out the river rock, and save it in a tub. Hand-pick it, pull out each piece, brush off most of the dirt, reach out and plunk it into the tub. We are savers, you see; I’ll bet we saved a good two dollars worth of river rock that way!

Well, I persisted; I saved the river rock, got rid of the dirt, unearthed several nails and screws, a comb, and a ballpoint pen. Lots of good stuff. But, as you might expect, my hands were a mess. Filthy, crud under the fingernails, scratches on the knuckles, dried out places on the fingers. My hands were horrible to behold. However, just as I was finishing, right on time, up drove my son, ready for lunch and ready as well to work his magic with the pavers. Before long he had poured crushed rock, spread sand, and spaced and leveled those pavers just right, and no one would ever have known that earlier that morning the place had been such an unsightly spot. His hands reached out and placed the pavers perfectly. Let the record show, however, that he could do so only because his dad had already mangled his own hands getting it ready.

And so it is that you and I are not only commanded but also empowered by our Lord to reach out our hands and provide hope and health and salvation to this world. He has gone before us and has pierced His hands with the sorrows of this world, enabling us to reach our hands out and give this world what it needs.

Did you notice the mention of hands in the story of Thomas and his encounter with the risen Christ? I’m sure you noticed where Thomas wanted to put his hand – in the wounded side and in the pierced hands of Jesus. Unless and until he could touch Jesus for himself, he could not believe that the Lord was risen. But then, did you notice that when Thomas did encounter Jesus, Jesus called his bluff? Jesus urged Thomas to reach out his hand and put it in the marks of pain. Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.” Jesus’ hands; Thomas’ hands. Reach out.

There is a connection between the pain in the hands of the crucified and the outreach of the hands of the disciple. We hear the command of Christ to Thomas, “Reach out your hand.” Connect that with the suffering, broken, bleeding hands of Calvary.

How do we make that connection? Our redeemer put His hands into the mire of this world to save us, and it took immense sacrifice and enormous pain for Him to do that. But when His hands took that punishment, He gained the right to command us to reach out to this world, and more than that, He empowered us. He empowers the doubting Thomases and the reluctant among us to reach out to lengths we never dreamed possible.

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