When I was living in Vellore, India, I was privileged to work at the leprosy hospital started by American physician Dr. Paul Brand. Even though leprosy is a curable disease, people still live here in an isolated colony and are still shut off and quarantined from the outside world.
There is a story the people who live and work at the hospital tell about Dr. Brand that goes something like this. The patients were holding a worship service and they insisted that Dr. Brand speak. He stood silent for a moment, looking at the patients assembled there. He began to look at their hands. Many of them had "claw hands" from their leprosy. Some of them had no fingers, just twisted, deformed stumps where their hands once had been. Many of them sat on their hands or, in some other manner, hid them from view.
Dr. Brand said simply. "I am a hand surgeon, so, when I first meet people, I can't help but look at their hands. I can tell what trade you were in by the position of your calluses and the condition of your nails. I can tell you something about your character."
"I love hands," he continued. "I've often wondered what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands. There were the hands of Christ the carpenter, rough and bruised from working with saw and hammer. There were the hands of Christ the healer, radiating sensitivity and compassion. Then there were his crucified hands. It hurts me to think about the soldiers driving nails through his hands because I know what would happen to the nerves and tendons. His healing hands became crippled and gnarled, twisted shut on the cross.
"Finally," the doctor continued, "there were his resurrected hands. You and I think of paradise as a place of perfection, but when Jesus was raised up from the dead, he still had his earthly wounds and he showed them to his disciples."
The story is that when Brand finished speaking, the effect on the audience of people with leprosy was electric: "Christ had crippled, claw-like hands like mine? Christ showed his hands to his disciples when he was raised from the dead?" The whole room began pulling their hands out of their pockets and holding them up in the air. They knew Christ as one of them; they recognized him in their midst, and he lifted them out of their shame.
Scripture tells us that, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. God takes that which is ugly and rejected in the world's eyes and turns it into something beautiful and treasured. God transforms both people and events."
We live in a world that is very difficult. Sometimes events occur that seem unbearable. Many of you have been there.
The loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, a traumatic diagnosis by a doctor, loss of a job or even a home. We were never promised that life will be easy. But we are promised that God is in control. And God can take that which is broken and make it whole once more.
As we anticipate Easter Sunday, we are reminded that Easter is not just a fresh start. It is a day of resurrection, a day when God turned the world upside down and created a new reality - a reality that assures us that indeed we may raise our hands crippled by what life has thrown our way and raise them to the God who became one of us, the God who loved us so much he sent his only son to live for us, to die for us and to show us the way, the truth and the life.
May the stone that has been rejected become the cornerstone of your life. Allow God to fulfill God's promise in your life and to take that which was broken and make it whole.
The Rev. Bonnie M. Orth is the pastor of the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church and the pastoral care coordinator at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.