Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Where's Your Other Arm? A Short Dialogue with Hezekiah, the Righteous Rodent, and an Homily with Reference to Hosea 1:2-10, Colossians 2:6-19 and Luke 11:1-13—for the Sunday between July 24 and 30: Proper 17

Hi. Thought I’d try something new this morning. I don't think you've been up here before. How does it feel? (Hezekiah looks over edge of pulpit and whispers in my ear.) Hezekiah says, "Hi!" No, high UP! O, sorry. I get it. Usually we sit down there on the steps. High and lifted up, like Jesus! Exactly.

Which reminds me of why I brought you up here this morning. Do remember you remember when we were at St Francis in Airdrie? Yes, it was long time ago. More than fourteen years. Will you excuse me if I tell these people about something that happened there?

There was a young Down Syndrome woman, I think her name was Kristy, who came up with the children to meet with Hezekiah each Sunday at St Francis. One day after about a year of this, she suddenly spoke up, right there in the service, and said to me, "Hey! Where's your other arm?" Do you remember that? I think I said I was holding your bag up with it and she was satisfied with that.

But, actually, Hezekiah, it was my other arm, the one that she couldn't see, that was making you real to her and the children. It is my arm and hand that makes you go. That's what makes children believe in you.

It’s rather like that for us humans, too. Just like what Paul wrote to the Colossians (2:6-7), when we receive Christ Jesus the Lord, and start walking in him, in the faith we are taught, it’s like we have an invisible arm helping us, too. It’s his arm working in us that gets things done, makes us work best and that makes us real to the people around us. You know what that’s like? Yes, I suppose you do.

For a whole year, Kristy watched you and me and listened to our stories, and then one day she suddenly realized something was missing. But what appeared to be missing was actually the thing that was making what she enjoyed happen.

Sometimes I’m a bit like Kristy. I’m enjoying the stories until suddenly one day, I think, wait a minute, God doesn’t seem to be doing anything, and I think, or say, “Where’s your other arm? The powerful one. The one that’ll fix my problems, deliver the oppressed, clothe the naked, feed the hungry and sort the things that are wrong with the world?”

Hosea and Gomer, in our Old Testament reading from Hosea (1:2-10) must have felt like that when God brought them together. “Where’s your other arm?” they must have been tempted to say, or something like it, when God had them name their children for things God was not going to do for Israel.

Same with the people Paul writes about (Col 2:16-18) who were judged and disqualified by their Christian brothers and sisters. God, “Where’s your other arm? Don’t like these ones very much!”

But actually, just as it was for Kristy, so it was for Hosea and Gomer and those judged Christians: what appeared to be missing wasn’t missing. God’s powerful arm was at work, for example in the story of Hosea and Gomer’s awkward family, God promises (1:10) in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

And, among the Colossians (and us), (Colossians 2:12-13) Gods’ powerful arm has been active through faith in raising us with Jesus even when we “were dead in our trespasses…God made us alive together with Jesus, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Above all and always, there’s Jesus. God’s other arm is Jesus (Colossians 2:19) “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”

Jesus, who taught his disciples, and us, how to pray in a way that helps us to see what the “other arm” is doing, to trust in its strength and to know that even when it seems to be missing, it is at work—animating us, telling the story through us, serving others through us, getting what our heavenly Father wants done, done, and giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13) in Jesus’ name and for his sake.