“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
Establish thou the work of our hands;
establish thou the work of our hands.”
Those three lines are the opening sentences of the Midday Prayer in Celtic Daily Prayer.
We use our hands for all sorts of tasks, in fact, pretty much all of them from putting on glasses, brushing our teeth, feeding ourselves, driving, performing wage earning work, building a house, reading a book… our hands are essential to our existence.
Our hands can also be used for evil purposes: they can be used to commit violence, write hate, masturbate, type search terms into google to get a “hit of porn” or indeed, we can simply fail to use our hands for a good (someone needs help but we simply refrain from helping).
Yes, Lord, “establish thou the work of our hands”. Often those of us who study theology can be guilty of “thinking” too much and not “doing” enough with our knowledge. The epistle of James, I think in part, is a warning against this very thing. We have to do something with our faith.
The Anglican liturgy of Confession and Absolution is beautiful because it recognizes this two-fold nature of “done and not done”. It reads in part:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
James tells us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” because doing so would be to deceive ourselves (James 1:22). What does it mean to be one and not the other? James says “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (1:23-35)
Lots of people hear, lots of people believe – even the demons! (2:19), but we are called to be a people of action, punctuated by periods of withdrawal for recharging.
Are you allowing God to “establish thou the work of YOUR hands”? What does he want you to do, what does he not want you to do with your hands?
Remember, Christ taught us to Love the Lord with all your “heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27), so this necessarily implies using the body he gave us. If you hold onto any gnostic notion of the physical body being bad, banish it now and get about the work of the Lord.
Lord, Jesus Christ, I call upon your mercy and grace to help me know where and when you direct my hands to perform your work of love.