Into God’s Hands: A Good Friday Prayer Poem

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Luke 23:46 (from Psalm 31:5)

The realities of our lives—

All that we see happening around us:

Economic
Political
Spiritual 

To what
To whom
do we commit these things?

“Into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

The things we value—love—hold dear
To whose hands do we entrust these things? 

It is a part of life.

We hand in
Hand over
Hand on
Hand off.

“Put your hand in the hand of the one…”

Jesus—as he is dying—
commends himself
—his soul
—the marrow of his bones
into God’s hands.
The hands of the One
who delivered from the womb of creation 
dolphins and dandelions,
marsupials and marigolds

The hands of the One
who ripped apart seas
to make a freedom way.

The hands of the One
who gathered up earthy dust

“We are the clay; you are the potter.
We are all the work of your hands.”

What if God’s work—
continues beyond crucifixion
in our hands?

Gentle hands that put Hello Kitty band aids on skinned knees.
Arthritic hands that knit or build or garden through pain.

Large hands that hold tiny hands as first steps are taken.
Hands that set music free from pianos or organs or guitars.

Hands that calm with a touch or write with a flair or feed with a fierce desire that none will go hungry.

Hands that serve or wash or repair. Hands that resist with everything in them other hands that with clenched fist or the stroke of a pen or the push of a button mark the world with violence and hatred—

God, the Potter.
We, the clay.

Our hands—
the work of God’s hands.

“Into your hands, I commend my Spirit.”

Do we?
entrust our lives—
our well-being—
our thoughts and feelings and wildest imaginings

Do we commend
our contingent existence
the whole of our radical temporariness–
Do we commend all of it—i
nto God’s hands?

Too many too soon forget this—
life’ uncompromising impermanence.
Or perhaps we are all too aware of it— 
So we live in fear.

React to others with fear.
Soak faith in the bitter herbs of fear.
Cling to what little postmortem knowledge we have with
clenched hands animated by a redacted hermeneutic of fear. 

But Jesus—in the end—

After splashing up out of Jordan’s waters
After calming seas and eating with tax collectors

But Jesus—in the end–

After refusing to be made king
After holding children in his arms
After breaking and blessing and giving

Here—Jesus—crucified—dying
—even here:

“Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

“And having said this, he breathed his last.”

Jesus died.
A childhood prayer on his lips.
Words of his mama’s faith—
Words learned as sun was setting
on growing up days of laughter and play
now slipping from weary body. 

“Into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

Last words.
Intimate words.
Breathed out to the Holy One
who breathed into him the breath of life.
Breathed out to the Holy One
who breathed into all creation—
into you and me
the breath of life.

“Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Do we?

“Who Cooked the Last Supper?”

Perhaps we can decide to be changed—so that gratitude, justice, and grace become the primary tastes that we share at our everyday meals.

“Who cooked the Last Supper?”

This question caught my attention when I saw it as the title of a a 2001 book by Rosalind Miles—Who Cooked the Last Supper: The Women’s History of the World.

The best bite of food I have ever had

I am reminded of a dining experience I had while attending a liturgical conference in Montreal almost a decade ago. Some friends and I visited a local restaurant where I encountered the best, most memorable, most delightful, most enchanting bite of food—just one forkful—I have ever tasted.

I have told the story of that one bite of food countless times—often while sitting a table somewhere eating with friends. That one taste has forever marked my tastebuds. Maybe even changed them. I wish I could taste that bite one more time.

Tastes that change us

Other tastes also linger in my memory. This morning as I write, I am remembering pieces of frozen chocolate pound cake that graced my dinner table for many weeks after my grandma sent them home with me when I was a pastor in Virginia. My goodness, I wish I had a piece of Grandma’s cake to eat with my coffee right now!

Lunches at Mrs. Alderman’s house come to mind too. Mrs. Alderman was a member of my Virginia church, and she loved to cook for others. Lunch was the big meal of the day for her, and she often invited me to share it with her. She and I sat at her table, just the two of us, and feasted on two kinds of meat, three vegetables, sweet iced tea, cornbread made in cast iron, and warm apple pie. And she always sent me home with a sack of leftovers. So did Beulah when I ate with her. And Katie.

And I can’t remember those good church folk without also remembering Donna at the Redwood Restaurant. She and the other cooks and servers at the Redwood nourished me with food and kindness and conversation almost every day that I lived in Lexington, Virginia.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Many people in Christian communities recall on Maundy Thursday the last meal Jesus had with his friends before he was killed. I wonder what those disciples remembered about that meal in the days, months, and years that followed. The foods they shared at that table. The tastes that clung to their tastebuds. The aromas that stayed in their nostrils. I wonder how that meal changed them.

What I haven’t given much thought to when sharing communion on Maundy Thursday is the question Rosalind Miles asks in her book title: Who cooked the Last Supper?

Blending together the Gospel stories of Jesus’ final days, we learn that someone provided a donkey for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem and that a woman in Bethany anointed him with expensive perfume. On this Maundy Thursday, I find myself wondering about the person or people who provided that final meal. Baked the bread. Prepared the recipes. Stirred up the aromas. Served the food.

Today’s towel-bearers

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing us. Our communities—our world—will not be the same now that we have experienced this viral threat together. We aren’t even aware yet of all the ways we are being and will be changed.

What I hope on this Maundy Thursday is that one of those changes will mean we hold and show more gratitude for some unsung and unnoticed heroes in our communities. They are out there right now. Heroes who didn’t choose the cloak and who don’t think of themselves as having super powers. People who are doing what they do every day, who are doing what they have been doing to make a living, to serve the public through often thankless jobs—and in doing so, to care for the well-being of all of us.

As we read the old, old story of how Jesus took up a towel at that last meal and washed his disciples’ feet, I hope we remember those in our communities who are taking up towels of many kinds to see us through this historic crisis.

A colleague of mine in Raleigh, Pastor Tim, writes about this in a blog post titled, “Scrubs, Pajamas, Aprons, and Towels.” Today’s towels, he says, are masks and latex gloves, hospital scrubs, restaurant aprons—all of the objects and accompanying actions that people are wearing and embodying to keep us going through these days.

The work these people are doing is sacramental work—revealing to us the presence of God-with-us. They are holding our lives in their hands. Keeping vigil at bedsides in our stead. Delivering nourishment to our homes. Teaching and counseling and offering words of care to our children.

A sad truth is that we too often overlook many of these folks. Underpay them. Vent our anger on them.

A new commandment

On this Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus, one who fed hungry people and washed weary feet and touched lepers and ate with folks no one else wanted to eat with. We give thanks for one who showed us how to love, how to heal, how to redeem a wounded and hurting world.

Perhaps as we remember Jesus, we can also take a moment to remember the people in our communities who are showing us day by day—no, who are offering us through their own lives and bodies—the face and hands and feet of Jesus.

And perhaps we can decide to be changed—so that gratitude, justice, and grace become the primary tastes that we share at our everyday meals. Jesus’ own words at the holy meal invite us to this conversion of our hearts, minds, and actions:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35