In our Scripture today we have three pretty big names in Biblical history, Isaiah, Paul and Peter each having been called, each of them proclaiming their unworthiness.
“Woe is me! I am lost! I am a man of unclean lips, I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the King,” Isaiah said.
“I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle,” Paul said.
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, “said Peter.
Not as well-known but nonetheless as important, you know who else confesses unworthiness? Us. All of us have. In a fit of imposed piety, the church has given us those words to say.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
In a throwback to Latin moment, the church rewrote those words to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof…” which makes for a very strange mental picture.
Where did this unworthy business come from? From God?
God doesn’t mention a thing about who is worthy and who isn’t.
In fact, go back to Genesis and remember how God created everything and saw that it was good. Reread our scripture today. God didn’t say “Hey Isaiah, you piece of unworthy garbage”, Jesus didn’t say “Simon Peter, you’re the best I can get, come along.” We don’t talk that way to one another, certainly God doesn’t.
I came to believe in my worthiness when I was doing the work of figuring out who God was in my life. I found my childhood image of God didn’t serve me as I became an adult, I had too many questions, too many experiences of God that didn’t fit the description of God I had been given.
Either I had to figure out an image of God or give up God altogether because the God that was being born in me wasn’t a judge,
wasn’t keeping track of my mistakes, didn’t decide how to answer prayers based on the formulas I used or with the repetition of them.
I can pinpoint an instance when my image of God grew exponentially.
It was when I was holding our fourth child soon after he was born.
I was overcome with this wave of love for him. Then I thought, “This is how my mom felt about me when I was born.” And then, my thoughts went on to, as much as I love my son, as much as my mom loved me, God loved me even more that.
In fact, at that moment I felt that God and I were co- creators in that God created life and so did my husband and I. I came to understand God’s love for me as the same as the love I had for my kids. God loves as a parent loves.
Fast forward to the early 2,000’s. Unworthiness started to be a reoccurring theme in preaching in this diocese. It was with my adult faith, my adult image of God that got me thinking about this unworthy business. If I asked a child of mine to do a special task and they said to me, “I am unworthy, thanks for asking me to do this, but I am unworthy,” I would be kind and reassuring the first time but if my kid said it again I would say “Knock it off.” Plus a lot more than that. Don’t you think God would get tired of hearing us proclaim our unworthiness, too? Geez Louise I think God would say, “Knock it off.”
Let’s think of it another way. Say you have a friend that you visited on a regular basis. Before that person would let you in the house you had to say “I’m unworthy, but you can make me whole.”
The person says “Ok, come on in.”
If you didn’t turn around and refuse to visit, you might go in a total of 1 time.
And hopefully you would have the self-esteem to erase that person from your address book. Then why do we put that burden on God?
God who is love, who created us and called us good, why do we make God that gatekeeper? Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere does God ever call us unworthy.
Now we have a whole season of Lent coming up.
I’ll talk more about that on, Ash Wednesday, February 10 here at Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 7:00, or read my column on our website. Suffice it to say, Lent is not a 40 day guilt trip about Jesus dying on the cross. Lent is a time, much like Advent to do a little introspection and see where we can grow in our lives.
It is a quieter time. If you have any vestiges of unworthiness, for God’s sake, give it up for Lent. And on Easter morning? Leave the unworthiness in the tomb where it belongs. Amen!