Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Luke 5
We are about to embark on conversations about race. And we might rightly ask: what does it mean, how does it involve me, and why is it important for us as people of faith? And as we explore difficult issues surrounding race, privilege, difference, responsibility, hopefulness, and healing, we will take tentative steps at understanding ourselves and each other better, in light of the Gospel’s proclamation that all are included in the grace offered to us in Jesus, the Son of God.
What pours out of this week’s readings, from Isaiah, Corinthians and Luke, is one of the most hopeful messages imaginable: we are held by the grace of God. Isaiah’s call, in Isaiah 6, shows us the prophet’s concern that “I am a man of unclean lips” … in other words, he echoes Simon Peter’s words from Luke 5 as the disciple of our Lord cries out, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” One of the hardest parts of the confessional life is that we could allow ourselves to become bitter because so much is expected of us. Conversely, when we challenge ourselves to talk about issues in which we may have been complicit, oblivious, or unaware we could constantly feel shameful, because we are not “perfect, as our [sic] Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
God’s goodness and grace is not contingent, thanks be to God, on our being perfect or righteous. Simon says to Jesus, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” He has done nothing immediately wrong or sinful, but he is beginning to see his life in the light of who Jesus is: Savior, Redeemer, and Messiah. But Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” “Do not be afraid of who and what I am,” Jesus seems to say to us. “Do not be afraid to tackle difficult topics or conversations, like racial reconciliation, healing, and justice. No matter what happens, or where you go, I have called you.” Jesus’ love is not dependent on us getting things “right.” It does not depend on us at all. God’s love in Christ, God’s grace, is given freely to us all which might give us the courage to more fully be all that God desires us, calls us to be.