Last week I attended a seminar called “This Holy Mystery” the taking of Communion. One of the interesting facts that we discussed was the accepting of communion. In other words who can and who has the right to take communion. In the United Methodist Church we practice the open communion in that we believe we receive the grace of God freely and everyone should be allowed to gather at the table.
One of the subjects was why do people sometimes take the smallest possible amount in the sharing of the body, whether it is the bread, or the juice. The conclusion of the group leaders was that people do not feel worthy enough, to take what God is offering them freely and that is Grace. The words from Simon Peter, struck me when I thought of all the things we discussed at that seminar. Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.
Most of the time when people think of this passage from Luke, the focus is on the words of Jesus about making Simon Peter, Andrew, John and James evangelizers or fishers of men. However, these words which were spoken by Simon Peter seemed to resonate a lot more with me this time. How many times have we heard people make a statement similar to that of Simon Peter’s? Maybe not in the same way, but with the same intent to distance themselves from God because they feel they are so unworthy that He will never want anything to do with them.
Remember why Simon Peter said this to Jesus? He had doubted that Jesus could do what he said he would do and that was fill their nets. This came only few days after Jesus had cured his mother in law (Luke 4:38, and he had been witness to the demoniac at the synagogue who announced that Jesus was the Holy One, the Son of God (Luke 4:33-36). You see Simon Peter, who had witnessed all of these acts, still doubted the power that Jesus had through the Holy Spirit. In essence, Simon Peter knew he had sinned against God through his doubting of the Lord’s power.
The same was true of Isaiah who knew that he was impure and knew he had done things against God in the sight of God. However because he recognized this and in essence asked for mercy before God, he was cleansed by Him. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."(Isaiah 6:7 NIV)
In both Simon Peter’s and Isaiah’s situations, God redeemed them from their doubts and transgressions, through his grace and mercy. For Peter, there would be other incidents of doubt, even in the days following the crucifixion Peter would doubt the power of God, however each time God would redeem him.
Still today we hear people say, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man”. While it may not be in those exact words, the message is the same. I am not worthy and undeserving of your love. God stay away from me. We even hear the words of Isaiah echoed, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,…” In other words, “God could not possibly love me because of the way I behave and the company I keep.”