Being Arnold Horshack

HorshackLong before he starred in Pulp Fiction, even before he appeared in Grease and Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta was Vinnie Barbarino on the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter.

As a child of the late seventies, I remember watching Vinnie Barbarino and the rest of the Sweathogs sit in Mr. Kotter’s class at James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, New York. Vinne Barbarino, however, was not my favorite Sweathog. That honor belonged to Arnold Horshack.

Arnold Horshack was the smartest and neediest of all the Sweathogs. I can still see him raising his hand in Mr. Kotter’s class, begging Mr. Kotter to call on him, his arm nearly coming out of its socket, pleading in his Brooklyn accent, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, Mr. Kotta, Mr. Kotta.”

As a kid, I thought Arnold Horshack was hilarious.

The Prophet Isaiah lived during a time of spiritual apathy in Israel. God’s people had for the most part rejected him. Many followed idols. Few still worshiped God faithfully in the temple. Even those who did, often only went through the motions of religion without true faith in God in their hearts.

It was during such a time of spiritual apathy that God called Isaiah to be his prophet. He gave Isaiah a vision of heaven. In the vision, Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne in the temple. His glory filled the room. Smoke was everywhere. Fiery angels flew all around God proclaiming his holiness.

Isaiah was terrified. He knew nothing sinful can stand in the presence of our holy God. He knew he deserved God’s punishment. He knew he deserved hell.

So God sent one of the fiery angels with a live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips. “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for,” the angel told him.

God forgave Isaiah through the sacrifice of the altar. Isaiah could stand in God’s presence without fear. He was forgiven.

Then God himself spoke from his throne. “Whom shall I send?” he asked. “Who shall go for us?”

That’s when the Prophet Isaiah turned into Arnold Horshack.

He raised his hand. He jumped up and down. “Oooh, ooh, ooh, God,” he said. “Here am I! Send me! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8).

Do you get that excited when God calls you to service? Do you jump up and down when you get asked to serve on a committee at church or to help clean the bathrooms? When God asks, “Who will go out and tell other people about me and my love?” does your arm come out of its socket hoping he calls on you? Or do you hide behind the person in the pew in front of you?

Sadly, like many in ancient Israel, our service to God is often only half-hearted. We think that parking our posteriors in the pew on Sunday morning is all it means to be a Christian. God, however, wants our whole lives. He wants joyful and willing service – service which we often fail to give or at best give grudgingly.

Thankfully, God has taken a live coal from the altar and touched our lips. He forgives our spiritual apathy through Jesus’ sacrifice on the altar of the cross. God is not going to punish you. You are not going to the hell you deserve. You are forever forgiven in Christ.

But now knowing that – seeing God’s forgiveness and all the good he gives you – raise your hand. Get excited about serving your God even when the job isn’t so fun. Remember, it is a privilege. You get to serve your God who so faithfully and lovingly serves you.

When God calls, be Arnold Horshack.


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