Jabbok Dawn

Tumbling in the Sand

Open, empty hands


The texts for Sunday, October 23, 2016: Joel 2:23-32Psalm 84:1-7;  2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; and  Luke 18:9-14

How do you receive a gift?  Or many gifts?

I think God pours out gifts beyond measure—
Gifts of God’s Spirit
Gifts of forgiveness and mercy
Gifts of grace and abundance
Gifts of vision and life —

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people,” God speaks through the prophet.

And it’s not just God’s Spirit that God pours out —
God gives and forgives
— like water pouring from the sky, like rain —
giving in abundance to this whole creation — to this whole world —
no matter the good or evil that we do.
As Jesus says in Matthew (5:45), “for God makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

It’s not our worthiness or unworthiness that causes God to give and forgive
It’s God’s goodness — it’s God’s very nature —
And yet it seems that we can, perhaps,
miss receiving what God is giving —
at least it seems that way in Jesus’ story —
and it seems that way in lives—ours and others—lives that seem more full of entitlement and self-justification and self-satisfaction
than they are with a Spirit that invites
dreaming and visions and grace and hope.

And so, how do you receive a gift?

I suppose with open, empty hands.

Hands outstretched to catch the Spirit poured like rain
Hands faithful, hopeful to receive grace upon grace
Hands empty in order to be filled—
Right. Empty hands
Not hands that bring to God all the good things
we think we’ve done
So that we deserve God’s grace
—like Jesus’ Pharisee in this story—
Not hands grasping to hold on to our goodness
our stuff
our value
—hands too full and too closed to receive anything—
no—empty, open hands and hearts
that can receive from the ever-giving God.

But here’s the really hard part about this —
when we hold our hands and hearts
open to receive gifts and grace and God’s good things
much of it runs through our fingers
much of it is passed along.

These good things we are given cannot be held onto
cannot be grasped
and held for only ourselves
for then our hands close from receiving
as we try to own, to control what God gives us

And this is by design
For all good gifts from God
forgiveness, wealth, time, talents, love, relationships
are meant by God to have us flourish
but also for others to flourish as well

Gifts are meant to be shared
They are meant to run through our fingers —
for everyone’s good.

But I think we are way too prone as humans
to try to hand on — to cling to what we do
and to what we’ve receive — at the expense of others
(and sometimes with the accompanying judging of others)

Which is why, I believe, we have to practice opening our hands

which we do when we kneel and pray for clean hearts and for forgiveness
and to forgive others as we ourselves are forgiven.

which we do when we stretch open hands to receive bread and wine—body and blood

which we do when we give of our money, time, and resources to help others and to strengthen the community

And so, in faith, we practice opening our hands—unclenching our lives—
to give, to be sure
to be emptied even, perhaps

But most of all to be opened to receive
—to receive all that God is already giving
—pouring out grace upon grace
onto this broken, needy world
and into open, empty hands.


2 comments on “Open, empty hands

  1. Jada Armstrong
    August 29, 2018

    Hi my name is Jada Armstrong and may I please talk to you about what got you to start being a woman pastor because god has been calling me to preach and tell gods word to everyone and I don’t know how to tell my pastor


    • jabbokdawn
      December 21, 2018

      Hi Jada, I’m sorry I haven’t responded in so long — I had been taking a long hiatus from my blog. Where are you with this call to preach? Have you told your pastor? I am praying for you.


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This entry was posted on October 23, 2016 by in Sermons and tagged , , , , , .

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