Monday, March 14, 2005

Year C, Epiphany 5

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

To feel unworthy is not the best feeling in the world. It leads to low self esteem, poor self image, and other negative attributes. And quite frankly it just plain doesn’t feel good. In all three lessons today we are faced with people who feel they are unworthy when faced with the living God. But the striking thing is that in their encounter with God they are not allowed to continue in the unworthy attitude. And that I think is sometimes one of the great struggles in the Christian faith. Because we know we are all sinners and because we know that we are unworthy of the great gifts of God we are sometimes in danger of considering ourselves to be unworthy people. And sadly in many places this is what is often taught and preached or at least hinted at in many, many churches. However this unworthy feeling was not allowed to stand in any of our lessons for today.

When you think about it, the entire world is built on relationships. And these relationships come in different forms and fashions. They are all achieved at different levels. All of us here today live lives deeply filled with relationships. Relationships with family, relationships with each other, and relationships with God. And these relationships are not always and perhaps not usually equal. And that is definitely true of our relationship with the God who created the universe. And sometimes, if we are not careful we can find ourselves feeling unworthy of a particularly relationship, especially our relationship with God.

All of today’s lessons speak to relationships as well. And our faith is relationship based also. You see it throughout the entire Bible. Today Paul talks about the relationships Jesus had after the resurrection. These were personal relationships. This Jesus was not some pie in the sky joe schmoe. He was flesh and blood. And he was in relationship with those around him.

And most importantly our relationship with God is about a healed relationship. It is about God reconciling the world back to Himself.

Paul, in spite of all that he had done against God, was restored to relationship with God in his encounter with Jesus. Paul, the one who describes himself as unfit to be called an apostle. Not because of a false humility but because of the very real and terrible things he had done to the earliest of Christians.

The disciples in the Gospel were also very aware of their own unworthiness in the face of Jesus. But that was not what Jesus was looking for in the Gospel reading today. He was not looking for people who would get stuck in their own unworthiness. No, he was looking for people who would be “fishers of men” and women. And Gideon, in the Old Testament reading today, realizing that he has seen an angel of the Lord thinks that death awaits him after this encounter with God.

You see this pattern throughout the Bible. People have an encounter with God, they feel they are unworthy and then what happens? God straightens them out.

We are a part of God’s creation. And in that sense nothing can be unworthy. It is not wrong to have a good understanding of all that Jesus has done for us on the cross, but if we turn that into an experience of unworthiness, self loathing, and inaction then we have missed the true Christian message.

I myself have often seen my own unworthiness both in my relationship with God and in my relationship with others. This is always particularly acute when I let them down and fall short of what I expect of myself and of what others may rightfully expect of me. It is a terrible feeling to disappoint and hurt others. I remember growing up that the most painful discipline in my life was not the times I was spanked but that fateful day when one of my parents simply looked at me and told me that I had disappointed them by my actions. And I have discovered that the more important a relationship is to you, the worse it is when you feel you have let that other person down and become unworthy of their love and trust.

But the good news is that we are not unworthy as far as God is concerned. We are God’s children. We are God’s heirs. We are part of God’s family. We are called to love, seek, and serve God. And no matter how many times we stumble, no matter how many times we fail, God remains patient, steadfast, and loving. I pray that I can remember that in my life when I fall and that I can remember it when I think others fail me.


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