12 April 2008

The Hand

The preacher questions, "Now what's wrong with the withered hand? Why would Jesus be drawn to a withered hand?" The congregation leans forward, collectively, balancing against the surge of the questioning. What could it be, and for whom, this withered hand? Why would he - or anyone - be drawn to a withered hand? It escapes the crowd; they lean in, breathless.

I clutch the pew in front of me, my head down, sweating. I am overwhelmed by indifference, caught in a tail-chase of nonchalance.

"Well, a withered hand can't hold on to anything."

Our lives are made of constructed walls, dense masses that announce isolation. The walls become so impenetrable that we who made them cannot overcome them. We are reduced, hidden in the shadows and ashes. This is the legacy of our inheritance, an entire necropolitan expanse.

Maybe it is too much, religion. Maybe it is too great a demand, too high a price for mere mortals. Annie Dillard was continually shocked by her experiences at mass: she could not, for the life of her, fathom the action.

"Jesus moved, Jesus moved about with divine appointment. Jesus always moved with divine appointment - and he had an appointment. "

I close my eyes; I embrace the air. My faith is and has always been characteristically schizophrenic, hot-then-cold, conviction-turned-absent.

I would like to desire, to reach a level of stability and calm. Is this so adolescent? Is it so childish to long for calm waters?

The preacher raises his arms, tears streaming down his face. Sweat lines his collar, his face reddened and contorted. The congregation is light-headed for lack of oxygen. I look around and gasp.

He pushes against the podium, exhausted, and whispers: "Someone had a withered hand and he made it whole."

No comments: