27 May 2008

Inscribed on God's Hands

by Rev. Doug King
The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:8-16a

Perhaps I am getting a little old-fashioned, but I am deeply concerned about this new tattoo trend. No, I am not overly disturbed about the spread of tattoos out beyond the biceps of Hell’s Angels to Soccer Moms and Vassar students. What concerns me is this new tattoo ink that has been developed that makes it easier to have a tattoo removed. In my mind the whole point of the tattoo is that you cannot remove it. The beautiful and gloriously short-sighted concept of having your current boy/girlfriend’s name tattooed on your backside loses all its devil-may-care charm if it can be removed with relative ease. What made the whole thing so utterly fascinating in the first place was a potentially temporal sentiment being permanent affixed to one’s body.

This is the long way around to thinking about the best line of this text from the prophet Isaiah, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” It is an evocative image, the Divine’s large hands open and palms outstretched towards us with oh so many names permanently etched upon them. We naturally start to read through the names. I wonder what order in which they would be. Chronological? Alphabetical? Whatever the system, you begin to seek out your own name. The list is scanned with expectation and maybe a hint of anxiety. As you grow closer to where you hope your name will be, you hold your breath until you find it. There! There I am, inscribed upon the very hands of God, forever known and remembered by the divine. I belong to God. I belong to God.

Many times people try and label each other in order to place them on lists and in categories that limit who they are and what they can do. Sometimes these actions are powerful enough for us to begin to question our own worthiness, to wonder just how valuable we truly are. When we are in this dark place we need to reach out and feel the presence of the hands of God.

As we work our fingers across the names we eventually come to our own name and we stop moving. There is a voice in our ear, the voice of the servant. We are being called out of the darkness, “Come out.” We are being called forward, “Show yourselves.” And we shall “feed along the ways.” And we “shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike us down.” And we “shall come from far away.” There are no more walls. “Highways shall be raised up.” And we will hear the heavens and the earth and the mountains all singing for joy. And we will raise up our voices and join the song. We are all the essential children of God forever inscribed upon the hands of God.

Reflection Question

This text speaks eloquently to God’s response to our needs. The Lords tells us that our cries have been answered and we have been helped. We are called out beyond whatever ways the broken-ness of the world has closed around us. We have been called to “Come out,” and to “Show ourselves.” Remember the times in your life when God has lifted you up and called you to come forward. How have these moments shaped your understanding of yourself and of the divine?

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