Homily: Wisdom in Our Hands

How are you friends? How are you holding up?No photo description available.

Here’s a meme I saw this morning on Facebook:

“Eighth day of self isolation in my house and it’s like Vegas: we’re losing money by the minute, cocktails are acceptable at any hour, and no one knows what time it is.”

Claire our 19 year old daughter, home from university for the duration, can’t keep days straight, though Peter and I seem to be doing a pretty good job of keeping track. How is it for you?

We live in strange times, don’t we? A day or two ago someone noted on FB that they were having trouble watching shows and movies. Each time people congregated, they thought “NO! Stop that! 6 feet distance! NO! Don’t hug! STOP IT!”

I have some of the same thoughts, I have to say.

And it was only a month ago, March 8, to be specific, that I drove to Portland to take part in an installation, and recoiled as people tried to shake my hand or hug me. Hands up, I’d say, “I’m from the north! I don’t shake hands! I don’t hug!” and people would look at me as if I was a little off. That was 4 weeks ago. It feels like a decade already.

Are you with me? I bet you are.

We are learning how to live in these times. When I put this title onto our worship planning sheet, I had no idea what the world would look like when it came time to speak about the wisdom that we have in our hands, even in our whole body. The poem about boats was what suggested this topic, the images of a plane smoothing out the grain of the wood, the knowledge in our hands and bodies: the touch of a cool hand to a child’s forehead to test for fever, the light press of a fingers into the top of a pan of cornbread hot from the oven to be sure it’s baked, the comfort of a hand on your shoulder when grief has overcome your heart.

The poet Judy Brown asks:

Could we return to more of craft
Within our lives,
And feel the way the grain of wood runs true,
By letting our hands linger
On the product of our artistry?
Could we recall what we have known
But have forgotten,
The gifts within ourselves,
Each other too,
And thus transform a world?*

In this time of distance between us all, it is good to take comfort where we can: seeing a beloved face in a darkened room on a flickering, churning computer screen, the texts, emails, facetime, and the welcome love of our animal companions and those who share our spaces. It is good to take comfort where we can.

And it is good to keep reminding ourselves that this is not the only world that can be. There will be another world after this one, and after that and after that, and it is in our hands, in our wise hands and hearts to be part of creating it anew with the harsh lessons we are learning. What would a world focused on compassion look like? How can we funnel our resources to those who are in dire need? How do we take care of each other, build community, build solidarity in our neighborhoods, our cities and villages and towns, our states, our country, our world?

Crisis always seems to pull the veil back to show how interconnected we are, how much we need each other, how tightly bound to each other we are. As we continue to find our way through this fraught time, let us remember the wisdom we hold in our hands: the wisdom of care, of love, of compassion, and never forget that we are connected by so much more than touch. Our lives are always and forever intertwined with each other, and with this resilient and yet fragile globe, this blue boat home.

We will all be changed by this time we are living through. We will find wherever there is when we arrive, and not before. As we abide in this liminal time, this time of living on the boundary between what was and what will be, let us hold on to that hard won wisdom of the world joined in a common life and community, dreaming the world shaped by what is possible.


*Judy Brown’s full poem can be found here.