No Hands But Yours
The Rev. Laurel Hart
Scripture: John 1:29-42
Have you ever meet a famous person? Thinking back I can only remember meeting a very few well known public persons in my lifetime – I have met Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on two occasions – he is probably the most well-known (and well respected) person I’ve ever met. I saw a local TV newswoman in person walking thru a mall department store one time – didn’t speak to her though so I really can’t say that I met her. And I do see our very own Jim Stumpf on TV commercials some mornings – so he is kind of famous to my way of thinking.
So when John the Baptist announces to other people the presence of Jesus walking toward him – I have a picture in my mind of this announcement being shouted out in a loud confident voice. John is telling people that this man is important – Jesus is going to become famous and well known in Israel and in a very short time all over the world. After all, John recently baptized Jesus and was witness to the opening of the heavens and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Jesus. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” John declares that Jesus, unlike he, has the power to take away sins. Consequently, he calls Jesus the Lamb of God. When I hear this description, I wonder if I would have recognized this soon to be famous person, Jesus. Andrew, who shortly will become one of the first disciples, realizes who he has encountered as he tells his brother Simon “we have found the Messiah.”
These readings today have a common thread - the theme of call. In Isaiah we hear the servant declare “the Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. “ Paul writing to the church in Corinth reminds them of God’s faithfulness to them and their commitment to and love for Jesus Christ is a result of God’s invitation – God’s call to them. The Gospel reading reveals the beginnings of Jesus’s ministry as he gathers together the women and men who are answering his call to follow him. Eventually, this small band of believers will take the good news of salvation out into the world.
The decision to be a disciple is different from the judgment about Jesus’s identity. John sees him with one set of eyes and Andrew with another. However, discipleship is about active engagement with Jesus. It is about our unique individual calling as followers of our Lord. It is about our life long Baptismal covenant to resist evil, to spread the good news of salvation, undertaking the work of seeking and serving all people and always, always striving for peace and justice – those vows are on pages 304 & 305 of the Red book of Common Prayer, which we repeated last Sunday and again with Sara this past Wednesday evening at her installation. Who was Jesus? Truly only you can answer that question because he is different to each person and that relationship evolves with prayer, studying of scripture and the passage of the years. Who are we in our hearts on this Sunday in January may be the beginning of our understanding of who Jesus is to us today. Verbs around John’s stories – words such as follow, see, seek, stay and find – emphasize that discipleship is active and involves interacting with Jesus.
When we talk about call we’re not talking about the ringing of the phone or the shout out to gain the attention of another person. In this context - call is about the voice of God through the Holy Spirit leading us into his work in this everyday world around us.
My own call began when I was a teenager. I felt very drawn to serve at the altar during Sunday worship services but I grew up at a time that girls were not allow to be acolytes. If they’d allowed me to do so then I wouldn’t have to do this now – do you think? God has a dark sense of humor. As the years have passed and I’ve gained in maturity, my life began to open up to new possibilities. I started to develop the deep sense that I had to go to “work” for God but I didn’t understand where or how. That was until the day I heard Deacon Marla describe her life and work as an ordained deacon. My stomach began to do flip flops and I finally begin to understand what God was calling me to do and become. So here I am about 15 years later – my job as I understand it is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That’s my call.
What is your call? Only you can answer that question. Trust me, each member of our community has a call to service and I don’t just mean a call to sit in the pews during worship service each Sunday and leave the vows of Baptism behind when the red doors close. Sometimes a call from God comes to us in a conversation we have with another person; when they issue an invitation to join them and others in some service activity. Sometimes our call is to use our known skills and talents or an opportunity to develop new ones. Sometimes call comes from our own self talk - that ongoing conversation we all have in our heads. It can be a yearning in our hearts when we hear of a need for assistance in our community or out in the world. It can be that funny flip flop in our stomach when we know – just know - we must do something. Or call can even be after the fact, when we realize that God was calling us all along to do the work we just started. The call to Christian service continues to the end of our life and though the level of activity might change, there is always work to be done. I once knew an elderly priest through bedridden – who knew that his call was to be in constant pray for all people far and wide – he was still in quiet service in the best way he was able to his very last breath.
Teresa of Avila said it so well so allow me to quote her words:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless (all people) now.