There are times when we do not want anyone to get near us. We have a bad cold and we tell people to keep their distance so they will not catch it. We just finished a strenuous workout or have been working hard at some physical task and we warn people not to get too close as if our perspiration were toxic. Certainly in this time of social distancing as a health precaution, we have had lots of practice at keeping our distance.
In the Scriptures, there are stories of people who warned others to keep their distance. On one occasion the prophet Isaiah warned some angels that he was a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:1-8). In the Gospel of Luke, after Jesus provides Peter with a huge catch of fish, he tells the Lord to stay away because he is a sinful man (Luke 5:5-11). Isaiah and Peter thought they were unpresentable, but not because of a bad cold or sweat. They thought they were unpresentable because of their sinfulness, almost as if they did not want God to catch what they saw as their ugly selves.
When Isaiah and Peter told God to stay away, an amazing thing happened. In effect God told them that even though they thought they were no good, they would be instruments of God’s presence to others. To Isaiah, God sent an angel to clean up his language and he became one of the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. To Peter who thought all he could do was catch fish, Jesus told him that from that moment on, he would be catching people.
It is not only when we are ill or feeling physically unpresentable that we want to keep people away. There are moments when we think that we are so bad, unattractive or boring that we push people away. Times when we have even felt unacceptable to God and have pushed God away. We can learn from Isaiah and Peter that even if we think we are not presentable, God sees our goodness and our capacity to bring his life and love to others, especially to those who feel ugly, unattractive or worthless.
It is not time to push God or others away. It is time to be catching people with the mercy and unconditional love of the Lord.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector