Saturday, 24 November 2012



Not words only   He used His hand
For laying earth's foundations, spreading
The heavens. In its hollow He measured
The oceans; He balanced the mountains,
Grasped the world's dust. His span
Meted out the constellations, fixing
For each its own trajectory. Man
Issues from His hand, potter's clay,
Supple, with no right to demand,
"What makest Thou?"
And towards Man
All the day He has stretched out both
His hands; to a rebellious people.

Not words only: come, He used His hands
To convey compassion and power. Lepers
He handled   though no leper could emerge from
His touch. Jairus's daughter awoke to feel
Her cold hand in a warm strong one. Mud
He fingered, and the dull eyes soon to begin
To see. The softness of the children's hair
His palms sensed as He blessed them; for how often
Were those hands God prepared lifted blessing?
Yet the hands that healed even His captor
Were restrained by His enemies bonds.


Since Adam lifted his sinless hand to steal
All men have used their hands as tools of ill:
Adam began to use his for deceit,
Sewing a flimsy cover because of sin.
And Cain continued to plunge to greater evil,
Staining his hands with Abel's righteous blood:
Building a city to house the unbelieving,
Making the origin of our warped world.
Jubal was father of those who use the harp,
Whose hands are skilled to charm our thoughts from God;
Tubal  Cain first forged tools of iron and brass  
Technology for lawlessness and war.
Against the love of God and His commands,
From then till now Man lifts his words and hands.

Until one Man, at the fulcrum of history,
Lifted His words in obedience to God  
Not words only: His hands operated
Diligently in healing   as commanded to heal;
Blessing   as commanded by God to bless;
Breaking the bread   at His Father's word.
And His hands will never let slip
The entrusted sheep; while the Father's hand
Clasps them too. Even the disciples' feet
Were washed by these dutiful hands
And dried with the linen towel   for refreshment
And for comfort. Such was the Father's delight
He gave all things to be in those hands.

Fisting their swords, ravaged
Herod's murderous soldiers.

The Nazarenes could not grasp
His time had not yet come.

Nor could the Pharisees handle
Stones to hurl while He stayed.

A more potent weapon
Judas clung to, the bag.

What use were the swords and torches
They gripped as they came to take Him?

Yet they wounded with buffets His face,
More marred than any man's.

As they plaited His crown of thorns
They would watch lest they pierced
Their own hands.

But the women cared:
His mother
Wrapped round Him the swaddling bands prepared
Because of her affection
For Him, more than other,
Lying in infant perfection.

Martha also served
All the good things that she had conserved
For Him alone   though her care
Distracted her from repairing
To the rest that He wished she would share.

Her sister, Mary,
The One whose love will never vary,
Raised her eager hand to break
Her flask of nard   quickly pouring
An outflow of love for His sake.


His hands were nailed to the cross
Though He used them only to bless
Those in sickness, need and distress
Whom the Pharisees reckoned as dross.

Did they play at pitch and toss
To gamble over His dress?
His hands were nailed to the cross
Though He used them only to bless.

He bore the deepest loss
As He hung for me, I confess;
For He suffered there to express
Greatest love where sin was most gross:
His hands were nailed to the cross.


Last words are often famous  
The ruling trait being prominent
At the time of death. "Father,
Forgive them" epitomises
The spirit of the Lord Jesus:
"It is finished" obedience
Of all that His hands had done.
But I cannot consider last words
Without remembering my father's:
"Jesus Christ is the Same, yesterday
And today, and to the ages to come."

Not words only; for his Master's spirit imbued
Him, a man in the twentieth century since Christ
With the same Spirit; his hands consecrated, filled.
As a member of Christ's body it seemed
He was a hand: a giver, a helper, a blesser.

Not words only: last gestures,
Last images fix in the mind.
A Man, in flesh and bone, risen
Out of Death's harsh manacles,
Stood, surrounded by admirers;
Expressing a dispensation
His final action, even ascending,
He blessed, He lifted His hands.

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