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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Inscribed on the Palms of God's Hands

Diane writes at Faith and Community:

On Tuesday, I had a funeral for a woman who had Alzheimers. In the past, she had been very visible around church, active and opinionated and doing a lot of things. But for several years, she had been living in a nursing home and didn't know anyone. Someone told me, though, that she had a church directory and perked up whenever someone pulled it out and started paging through it.

For some reason, I decided to use a short passage from Isaiah 49 for one of the readings. Israel is complaining that God has forgotten her. God replies, "Can a woman forget her nursing child? ...Even these may forget, but I will never forget you. You are inscribed on the palms of my hands."

Even if you forget (and we do, even if we do not have Alzheimer's Disease), God will not forget you.

Even though this woman didn't remember any more, she still had friends who came to visit her, who paged through the church directory with her, who sang hymns to her. They reminded her of God's promises, promises that she had forgotten. And they remembered for her, when she could not remember.

So this is part of the Holy Spirit's work in us, and through us: to remind one another of God's promises, to keep saying and singing and praying: "You are a child of God. " To keep tracing the sign of the cross on each other's foreheads. To hold each other's hands, and say, "this is what God's hand feels like."

Remembering is holy work. But we don't just remember with our minds. We remember with our eyes and our ears, our hands and our feet.

Jesus' whole life is God remembering us. Jesus' whole life, his death, his resurrection is God, inscribing us on the palms of his hands.


  1. Gosh that is a beautiful piece - thank-you

  2. Sometimes the remembering that someone else does for you, is all that gets you through.

  3. Beautiful Scripture and beautiful imagery here too. Thank you.

  4. Amen! From time to time I do funerals for the parents of parish members; I never knew the parent, which makes preaching more challenging. But when dementia was a significant issue, this is the sermon I preach, and I love your choice of scripture. For those who have forgotten, God holds and values their memories, precious and dear; their history, their relationships, the events of their life are held in trust by the One who holds all time, until their chronos enters into God's kairos. Thank you for writing about this so beautifully!

  5. Thank you so much. I too had funerals on Monday and then Tuesday for parishioners who later years of life faced the challenges of alzheimer's as did the family. For the first parishioner, a man, had the gift of being able to communicate and grasp the love and joy of family around right up to the end. For the second, a woman, a much different quality of life deprived her of most of what was going on around her. The woman lived in her own world with her own real illusionary trips each day to the summer house on the Cape, or walks with family long since gone. My thought was the reliving of those memories are signs of God's gracefulness at work for all God's beloved.

  6. This is what blows me away:

    "Jesus' whole life is God remembering us. Jesus' whole life, his death, his resurrection is God, inscribing us on the palms of his hands."

    Thank you, Diane.

  7. well, thank you everyone. I'm humbled by your words.


  8. Thank you so much Mary Beth. My stepmother is a late stage Alzheimer's patient and my father has just been diagnosed with a dementia. I am an only child, and sometimes the burden seems too much. God remembers, what a comforting thought.

  9. Beautiful!

    Should be posted as a response to "Ask the Matriarch" of April 7.


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