Sunday, October 16, 2016

Palm-reading

I am a palm-reader, and I can read people’s fortunes in their palm.

I get to see a lot of hands. To touch them, gently, and examine them, closely. Sunday by Sunday, people come forward and hold out their hands in front of me. Some are regulars, some here for the first time; but these are my people, the people God has asked me to care for, asked me to feed. This in itself is a holy mystery: they are not mine in a possessive sense, but the One who is their Lord and mine has called me to partner with him in feeding them: we do it, together. As I press a communion wafer onto their palm, making the intangible tangible, I am deeply moved by the privilege.

I am a palm-reader, and I can read people’s fortunes in their palm.

I get to see a lot of hands. To touch them, gently, and examine them, closely, and as I do, I read their fortunes. Not ‘their fortunes’ in the sense of foretelling their future, but in the sense of seeing into their lives.

I notice the rings, that speak of covenant relationships: the wedding band on the widow’s hand; the ring she inherited from her mother; the ring his father gave him; a few bands worn so thin that they are more held-together by the integrity of love than by the integrity of gold.

I notice the fingers gnarled by age, overlapping its neighbour, or thrown out crooked by injury or arthritis: this, too, tells me something about their fortunes, not in a predictive sense but in a holy moment where animated clay recognises bones of its own bone, recognises our oneness and is glad. Their fortunes and mine are intertwined, and the richer for it.

Then there are the hands held down, clasped together, hands indicating that the person has come forward not to receive bread and wine but a blessing. These hands are mostly Iranian. Every few months, we baptise another twelve or so disciples; and only after baptism do they take bread and wine. This is a precious thing approached with reverence, many weeks of study and preparation. For our Iranians, sharing in the Eucharist – Holy Communion – is so precious in part because it transcends language, unites English- and Farsi-speakers. And as they approach baptism, they come forward week by week for a blessing.

I bless them: ‘the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ Whether the words are fully understood or not, what they evoke comes to be known, the weight of glory settling on their lives. I bless all-comers, Christian, Muslim, each made in the image of God, each made to experience God’s blessing.

I wish that those who have never met our Iranians, who have to pass judgement on their asylum tribunals, deciding whether their faith is living or not, would come and stand alongside them week by week over the course of, say, a month. I wish they would look not only into their scared eyes, but on their hands.

And in hands held out to receive Jesus – the Body of Christ that is the Church touching Christ’s body that is the bread – and the hands waiting with anticipation to receive Jesus, I can read that their greatest fortune is laid-up not on earth, subject to corrosion and decay and theft, but in heaven.

I am a palm-reader, and I can read people’s fortunes in their palm.


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