Am I worthy? Am I good enough?

Sermon on Isaiah 6:1-8 – Am I worthy?  Am I good enough?

I may seem like I pigeon-holed this in, but I want us to worship in a “Season of the Spirit.”  We talk about the Holy Spirit one Sunday a year and then put her back into the little box of things we believe in but disconcert us.  Every year I want to spend more time just exploring the idea that the Spirit gives us gifts and God calls us to ministries using the gifts the Spirit blesses us with.

Those gifts come with a call from God, but our answer usually comes out as questions.  We ask those questions that make is so we never have to actually answer God’s call:

“Am I worthy?”  “Am I good enough?”

Most of us start asking the moment someone first tells us we fail the test.  Some of us get to learn that from theologies that state we cannot earn salvation but imply that we actually can as long as we do not commit “those sins” or do not rack up too many sins.

As a kid, I had a conversation once with a trust adult—the who does not impact the story much—about being “naughty” and struggling to do the same naughty thing over and over again.  He told me that my soul was a whiteboard and when I prayed to God, God wiped it clean, but whiteboards can only get so clean and eventually it would get too dirty for God to forgive me.

He told me I could sin enough for God to stop loving me.  He just said it in a really convenient package for him.

Those terrible lessons—lessons we all learn from people who we love and, in theory, love us—lead to the great existential questions of every potential seminary student asks, or potential minister, or even potential camp counselor:

“Am I worthy?”  “Am I good enough?”

Am I?  Or am I fraud?

I relate to Isaiah’s call story so well.  Even as a confirmand preaching on Confirmation Sunday, Isaiah’s call story felt more like my own than even Jeremiah’s.  God called someone broken and imperfect to a ministry beyond their ability and worth.  The man God called knew the true state of his soul, his brokenness and failings, and told God as much, and God provided the strength and redemption to do the great task.

We will talk about the language Isaiah uses to describe his brokenness in a moment, but first I need to point something out.  This scene happens in and around the temple.  According to human standard and Jewish tradition, Isaiah meets the ritual cleanliness standard.  The temple staff welcomed him into the temple without concern or problem.

Isaiah meet the human cleanliness and worthiness standard.  In all honestly, he probably exceeds human standards of worthiness.  He already served as a prophet of some success before this scene.

He passes the human tests—passes without exception—and yet Isaiah still asks himself those questions:

“Am I worthy?”  “Am I good enough?”

He answers them with a resounding and fearful, “No!”  Isaiah looks at himself and he sees himself in an honest light.  He starts getting worried because humans cannot look upon God, and he sees himself as worse than a regular human.  He believes, in that moment, that he will die because he gazes upon God.

His description of himself speaks volumes.  Effectively every English translation uses the word “unclean” but “leprous” has the same accuracy and a certain descriptiveness “unclean” lacks.

I do not recommend doing this, but you could do an image search for “leprosy” and see what leprous skin looks like.  Imagine a mouth riddled with sores, festering and oozing, cause great pain and making one permanently unclean.

He does not have actual leprosy in his mouth, but his words make his mouth “leprous.”  Imagine the words and thoughts coming from a mouth you describe like that.

I do not believe Isaiah speaks of cussing and “blue language” here.  I believe God probably rolls God’s eyes at how much we worry about that sort of thing.  Instead, I believe Isaiah—and the Israelite people—spoke with mouths that spewed out hatred, judgement, and acting as God, doing God’s job of being judge and declaring worthiness.  I cannot back that up with specifics, but I believe that strikes God as more important than F-bombs and off-color jokes.

God hears Isaiah when he very honestly and very accurately answers those questions:

“I am not worthy.”  “I am not good enough.”

God responds.  “I will make you worthy.  I will clean you.  I will empower you.  I will make you good enough.”  God does not say, “Yup, you pass without my help.”  God does not assure Isaiah of his worthiness.  God does not scold Isaiah for making his brokenness known or expressing his fear born out of his brokenness.

God makes Isaiah worthy and good enough, God alone

God must because Isaiah nor any other human or council or committee can.  God does not use a human standard to determine who has enough worth or goodness to answer God’s call, God does not use some sort of measure of righteousness to determine who God will call, God does not use human methods to clean Isaiah or prepare him for this great task.

Isaiah did not somehow attain worthiness on his own.  Isaiah did not need to attain that worthiness on his own.  When Isaiah did not have enough as a broken human, he had God to rely on and draw from.

God answers those questions that we ask ourselves, just not in our way:

“Am I worthy?”  “I will make you worthy.”

“Am I good enough?”  “I will make you good enough.”

“I cannot do it myself.”  “Rely on Me.  Draw from Me.”

God calls you in your broken state.  God does not have a holiness and righteousness test to determine who to call.  I could tell you so many platitudes and examples right now, but I want to say this in plain language:

God called you and you are worthy of God’s call.  Period.

We have a culture of worthiness and purity, somehow believing that we must attain some sort of level or cross some sort of bar to minister and answer God’s call, a funny belief because God calls us right now, today, even in our broken and unworthy state.

You are broken.  I cannot write any words or give you any direction to make that not true.  You are broken, in need of saving, and not enough to do it on your own.

God saved you.  Jesus died for you.  The Holy Spirit lives within you and blesses you with talents and gifts.  Stop acting like the same God who saved you in your broken state would somehow decide   unworthy of God’s call in your life.

God called you, broken and wounded, to a mission on this Earth.  Answer that call.

We should celebrate the season of the Spirit.  Each of us has a gift we do not deserve but we have.  Use them to answer the call God places in your life, today.  Amen.