Isaiah 6: 1-2, 3-8; I Corinthians 15:1-11; Psalm 138; Luke 5:1-11
Have we ever said, or thought, to ourselves, “I am so unworthy, how can God want me?” If we have, then we are in good company. In our first lesson, the Prophet Isaiah says to God, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips…” In the Gospel lesson from St. Luke, St. Peter says to Jesus, “Leave me, Lord. I am a sinful man.” In the second lesson, St. Paul says, “I am the least of the apostles; in fact, because I persecuted the church of God, I do not even deserve the name.” Yet Isaiah became the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Peter was the leader of the Twelve, and Paul, almost singlehandedly, brought the Gospel to the Gentiles. Our usefulness to God has very little, if not nothing, to do with our worthiness, it couldn’t. Because, honestly, we are not worthy. How could a human being become worthy to be an instrument, even, a friend of God? We are born into a fallen world, with a fallen nature, and almost from our first breath we are sinners. As children we lie almost by instinct, before we are even sure what a lie is. We are selfish, self-centered and always looking out for number one. I am not blaming children, that is who we all are without grace and proper teaching. But even with that, we still choose to rebel, to put our will first, before God’s. So worthiness is not the issue.
So what is the issue? After the seraphim touched Isaiah’s lips with the ember from the altar, the Lord said, “Whom shall I send?” And Isaiah answered, “Here I am, send me!” After Peter told the Lord to leave him, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.” And Peter left everything and followed him. After saying that he did not deserve the name of apostle, Paul says, “By God’s favor I am what I am.” We may not be, and indeed, cannot be worthy; but we are needed, we are called, we are loved, we are empowered, we are trusted, we are forgiven, we are granted the privilege of being children of God. We are chosen by God to carry out his mission of building his Kingdom in this fallen world. Our worthiness doesn’t matter, it is our willingness that counts. Someone once said that the only ability we need to serve God is availability. We need to be willing, available, open and trusting to serve God at all times, wherever we are. We might even be where we are because God wants us to be there, God might have some special service that only we can do, because we are the one who is there. It is never very enlightening to try and second guess God’s plans and try to figure out where God wants us to go, our best move is to humbly submit to whatever God has put right in front of our face. While some people are called to be sent as missionaries to far flung peoples, and do great works there, most of us are not. We are to be missionaries to nearby people, our families, friends, co-workers, fellow students and local communities. As the saying goes, we are to bloom where we are planted. In many ways, not all, but many, this is the harder task. Our Lord did say that a prophet was honored everywhere but his own home.
How can we, this small community of St. Brendan’s, best serve Our Lord and God Jesus Christ in this mission field of Lane County, Oregon in the Year of Our Lord 2013? By choosing to do so, by being willing to do so. To the best of our ability living the Truth of the Gospel in every encounter, conversation, meeting, decision, choice and opportunity we have. By living the Gospel not only in our actions, reactions and words, but in our thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits. By openly rejecting the standards of the world, and choosing, in our entertainment, our reading, our pastimes, our occupations, our purchases what is pleasing to God, regardless of the consequences. By supporting and upholding the Church as having the first call on our resources, time, talent, energy and strength. By living, sacrificially, the life of the Church, in prayer, worship, Mysteries, fasts and feasts. And in all of this, of almost primary importance is to live in the joy of the Lord. Joy, like happiness in a more mundane sense, is a choice, an orientation, a way of being in response to the love and presence of God. It is, very rarely, though it does happen, a bolt out of the blue. We have a choice before us – how do we respond to life? With despair or with joy? Put this way it sound simple, and in a certain way, it is. But it takes a serious amount of discipline, humility and sacrificial submission to the will of God to live that simple life. One of the first steps is to accept that until we receive notice to the contrary, we are right where God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do. And if that is so, why should we not be joyful, we are doing God’s work! Our joy is not based on whether we succeed at this work, that is up to God, but that we are faithful in it, and that we are doing it in God’s grace and to God’s glory.
It is a physiological fact, or so I have been told, that it takes more muscles and more energy to frown than it does to smile, and that the simple act of smiling can change our mood for the better, and that smiling and laughter can relieve pain. I have tried this, and it works. Now, I am not saying that smiling a lot and laughter are the heart of our joy in the Lord, but they can be tools, aids, to tow us out of, in the words of “Pilgrim’s Progress”, the Slough of Despond. We can take, as our second step toward a life of joy, choosing to smile or laugh, when we might feel like crying in despair, and see if we are better able to cope with whatever is weighing us down. It is a small step to a new way of life, and if we want to change, we have to do something different, and this may be it, it may not. But living in joy, infectious joy, joy that is shared with all around us, joy that is real and based in our love for and trust in God, is a better witness and testimony, a more effective martyrdom, than being miserable. The Christians in the Coliseum, facing the lions, sang hymns of praise and joy to God, can we do less, facing the lions in our life? Our third step should probably be, letting go. Whatever it is we are clinging to so hard in this life, whatever we are worrying about, stressing over, just let go and leave it, or them, to God. Finances, relationships, the state of the world, none of this can be bettered by worry. If there is something we can do, then do it, and leave the rest to God. If there isn’t, then leave it all to God. In the story of Mary and Martha, Martha is fussing about the housework and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken from her. He didn’t say don’t do the housework, I think he implied to Martha, just get it done, and you can sit here as well. We can sit at Jesus’ feet taking joy in the Lord and do the dishes, at the same time. Everything we do should be done in the manifest love, joy and presence of God.
Yes, we are unworthy, and if feeling that way is causing us to resist what God wants to give us, then we need to get over it, it is unimportant and irrelevant. God has chosen us for important work, and we just need to say, “Here I am.”
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