Sitting, Dwelling and the Unworthiness of the Messenger

There is a thread that runs through all of the lectionary readings for today. We see in Isaiah, Paul in 1 Corinthians and Peter in the Gospel reading the unworthiness of the messenger.

This is evident in any number of ways in Isaiah 6, but one of the aspects of the reading I noticed is the use of the word yoshev. There is a stark contrast between where the Lord is sitting (yoshev) and where Isaiah is dwelling (yoshev):

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting (yoshev) on a throne, high and lofty … (6:1a)

And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live (yoshev) among a people of unclean lips … (6:5a)

Isaiah fears his death after seeing the Lord, yet ultimately, the seraph comes down and cleanses the lips of Isaiah, so that he can carry forth the message of the Lord (which isn’t a very pleasant one if you read on past the lectionary reading).

The unworthiness of the messenger is also seen in the reading from 1 Corinthians 15, though this may not be the central message of the text.  In verses 8-9, Paul says, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

Finally, in the Gospel of Luke, this common thread is seen in verse 8 in Peter’s fearful profession: “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!'”  After this profession, Peter, unworthy as he is, receives the call of being a fisher of people.

This is a helpful set of readings as we approach the season of Lent and set aside time to reflect more deeply on the ways in which we have all been unworthy of our calling. But also, they are a helpful reminder, to me at least, that we must also reflect on this during Ordinary Time.

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