Open Hands


(It’s been a while. Thought I’d share some words from last Sunday that resonated with several. And thanks to the late Rachel Held Evans for her constant inspiration and appropriate pushy-ness in my faith).

As we prepare to receive Christ’s body and blood through the Eucharist, I invite you to hold your hands out for a moment in a posture of receiving. Take a good look at them. And take a moment to think of how, and in what ways, they have been in this posture throughout the week.

When have they received? And when have they truly only received without the quick-on-the-heels inner thought of “now I need to give something back to make it even?”

This act of receiving is itself and act of submission. In receiving God’s grace, we give up any inner ideas that we’ve done something to attract God’s pleasure, to make ourselves somehow a little worthy of it and are relieved of the pressure that we need to quickly do something in return, to repay, lest we draw his disappointing gaze.

When I look at my own hands, I realize how infrequently they are in this posture…which is a problem. My hands are more often in a taking/doing position; and not to cause the feeling of accusation, but likely so are yours…fixing, doing, preparing, typing, emailing, texting, selfie-taking, snapchatting, driving, lifting, writing, sending, holding, social-media-posting, giving, touching, pressing, preparing, folding, tapping, knocking, washing, scrolling, surfing, pointing…but receiving? Not so much. We’ve absorbed so deeply levels of responsibility and work ethic that we even have an English idiom “take matters into my own hands.” We should consider that our bodies often portray our theology. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Communion, the Eucharist, is one of the ways the grace of God gets through. And when we receive it in a way in which we realize that we have nothing to offer in response to his grace but “thanks,” it trains us that perhaps we should receive other things, other situations, other people in exactly that same way.

“Grace cannot prevail,” writes Robert Farrar Capon, “until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.”

This is why I need the Eucharist.
I need the Eucharist b/c I need to begin each week with open hands.
I need the Eucharist b/c I need the practice of letting go and letting in.
I need the Eucharist b/c I need to quit keeping score.
I need the Eucharist b/c I need to be reminded that God stays faithful even when I don’t.

Theologian Alexander Schmemann writes, “no one has been worthy to receive communion…no one has been prepared for it. At this point all merits, all righteousness, all devotions disappear and dissolve. Life comes again to us as Gift, a free and divine gift…everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given. And therefore, the greatest humility and obedience is to accept the gift, to say YES, in joy and gratitude.

In all honesty, it’s a scary thing to receive in this way, to say yes to this kind of truly overwhelming grace. Yet when we do, something that is richly and uniquely Christ embeds itself into our bodies and imaginations once again.

I’ve caught myself even saying sometimes “let’s take communion.” So actually, let’s not. Let’s not take…let’s receive. Let’s say YES to the gift of grace, in joy and thanksgiving.

We spend a lot of time making sure to use plural language: we, us, and y’all…and rightly so. But today I want to reverse course for this moment. When you hear “body of Christ broken for you, blood of Christ shed for you,” I want you to hear it as an individual that is a part of the Body.

AND, when you receive it with hands in receiving position, don’t say “amen.” Replace it with another word that means the same thing: YES.

Let’s open our hands and say YES to receiving grace.

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