“I’m Not Ready, I’m Not Worthy” June 14, 2020

“I’m Not Ready, I’m Not Worthy”

Based on Romans 5 & Matthew 9-10

Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

           ~ Jaroslav Pelikan

I’ll never forget my first day of swimming lessons. Now, at 8 years old I could thrash around with the best of them, but there is no way anyone could call it “swimming.” Therefore, I jumped at the chance to take lessons at the YMCA. So there I was on the first day with about 30 other kids talking and jiggling around the way that kids do when the instructor blew his whistle. “All right,” he hollered, “we’re gonna need to split you up into two groups: beginners and intermediate. Now who here knows how to swim already?” My little brain immediately went into action. “You can’t swim,” it said, and I agreed. Then it said, “But you know what – if you wind up a beginner, then you’re gonna be stuck with all those little kids. That’ll be awful!” and without giving it a thought (no pun intended) I stuck my hand in the air.

What happened next was a life defining moment. “All those who raised their hands,” he said, “I’m gonna need you to show me you can swim. So listen up. One at a time I want you to swim across to the other side of the pool. Who’s going first?” Well, the first one surely wasn’t me. My memory is little foggy about the moment I jumped in, but I do remember that long journey to the other side. Somehow, I splashed and slashed until the glorious moment arrived and I was safely hanging onto the pool wall at the other side. To this day, I don’t know how I did it, I just did.

Believe it or not, I do have a point to make amid all this rambling. Sometimes we’re called to do things when we’re not ready. We’re not up to it. We’re not practiced or polished or collected enough to take on this monumental task. But it’s time – we have to do it. Every time I have studied the story of the disciples being sent to announce “The Kingdom of Heaven is near” I shudder just a little. Talk about a life defining moment! I mean, think about it – this was a rag tag bunch of amateurs if ever there was one. Yet in these disciples, Jesus placed his absolute trust. To Peter who later denied him, Judas who betrayed him, and Thomas who would struggle with his faith, the Lord said, “Let’s do this.” To Matthew, the tax collector who worked for the Romans and to Simon the Cananaean who worked against Roman rule, the Lord said, “I trust you.”  But you’ll notice that he never told them that they were ready.

Instead, as we read in the beginning of Chpt. 10, Jesus summoned his 12 disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. “He gave them authority.” Now, how we are to understand this will forever be a topic of debate, but let’s just say that when Jesus gave them authority – when Jesus gives us authority – we are given more than just permission.

Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome is unique. Because he didn’t know these people personally, Paul was free to speak his mind. For that reason, Romans is a treasure trove of  theology. In Romans, we come to know of Paul’s understanding of how God works. Let’s look at his opening words in chapter 5:  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Now, that’s a mouthful, I admit, but notice the key word here: faith. We are justified through faith, we have gained access by our faith. And speaking to our original point, we are given authority by our faith.

How do we view the world today? Is it through the lens of our politics? Through the news we choose? Through the folks we hang out with? All of these, for certain. But when we find ourselves saying, “Well, I think…” perhaps we might ask ourselves, as Christians, where does our authority come from? It’s a tough ask, I know. I struggle with it every day. But when Jesus sent his disciples into the crowds of people “troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” he didn’t send them with facts and figures; he didn’t send them with opinions and points of view. He sent them with faith in the love of God that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 5:5) He sent them with a faith that was undeniable.

We’re not ready and we’re certainly not worthy, but when Christ sent his Apostles into the world to announce the nearness of the Kingdom of heaven, I can’t believe it stopped there. These are uncertain times; there’s no denying that. So what is the church to do? What is the body of Christ to do – – except to dive in; to dive in and demonstrate for all to see, the awesome love or our awesome God.

Amen & Shalom

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