Every so often I am struck by the level and expression of intimacy afforded to pastors. We are invited into celebrations, into grief, into tragedy, into struggle, into joy. I continue to be surprised more than 12 years into this vocation by the different things people share with us, and by the different avenues through which I am led to pray for people.
One place I seem to be invited into prayer, once in a while, is as I serve the sacrament to the people of God gathered for worship. In our worship tradition, people receive the bread with hands open, extended in front of them (and, incidentally, we don't 'take' ~ we receive communion).
Once in a while, as I am serving, I notice hands. Some are rough and calloused; the result of regularly being used either for work or for locomotion (by walker or wheelchair). Some hands are soft, delicate; hands that gently care for children, or for parents. Some hands are scarred from injury, or gnarled by arthritis. Some are deeply tanned, reflecting a healthy lifestyle and regular outdoor exercise. And some retain bruises, evidence of the IV needles from a recent hospital stay.
Often hands can be a window into someone's life. Today, for instance, one person had a broken blister on his palm ~ has he been working in his garden, or maybe remodeling his house? Another had a brace on each wrist, which only allowed her to move part of her fingers ~ how did she hurt her wrists?
Hands might not seem all that intimate ~ after all, we shake hands with other people pretty regularly, and our hands are hardly ever covered up (unless it's pretty cold outside). But my experience in that sacred space and time is that people's hands just might, on occasion, offer a glimpse deeper into a person's life, and a new way for us to pray for each other.