Knowing God and making a declaration of faith is an important part of the journey of faith. But then what usually follows an encounter with God is an acute and often painful awareness of self. Moses, following his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness, far away from a shady past, stumbles across a God who calls him to a mission of liberation. One of his many objections is that he doesn’t know who this God is. “Tell me your name,” he asks. Who are you, so that I can answer when they ask who sent me.” But alongside that question is a realization that he does not measure up to this ideal or to this calling. “Who am I,” Moses asks again and again in an attempt to crawl out from under this call. Our awareness of self is an important element of the journey. But like our understanding of who God is, our understanding of ourselves changes and grows with time.
Our first awareness is our inadequacy. Confession is an appropriate response for those who are entering into a relationship with God. “Send me,” says Isaiah in the temple of the Lord. “Get away from me, Lord” is fisherman Peter’s response to ferrying Jesus around in his boat. Our experience of unworthiness is often a starting point in our discipleship. But it must be the final experience of unworthiness. As we grow closer to God, we begin to see ourselves as worthy because we are made worthy by God’s love and transforming grace. We see the delight God takes in us as a part of God’s creation, blessed in so many ways. Our prayers begin with confession but then can move on to commitment, from acceptance of grace and forgiveness into intercession and calls for justice and for peace. We don’t stay in a state of shame but move into grace because of God’s call on our lives.
So, we can celebrate our call, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations,” as a way to remind ourselves that we are not just in this for ourselves, but for the transformation of the world. We pay attention to the world around us and ask how we can care for all of creation, protect those who are being hurt by climate change, those suffering droughts and fires, those being flooded and swept away by hurricanes, and those communities destroyed by earthquakes. We are in the business of stewardship of all that God created. And while we may feel like our resources are few, we can do our part; we can rise to the occasion; we can pay attention.
Who are we to shoulder the burdens of the world? Especially when we get it wrong more often than right, it seems. We remember that we are just beginning, again or for the first time. We recommit ourselves to the call to become disciples.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.