By C. Robert Wetzel
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge (Psalm 57:1).
We readily understand the words of Simon Peter when he said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Early in his ministry, Jesus had occasion to use Peter’s boat as a pulpit. When the sermon was over he told Peter to put out to sea and let down his nets. Peter protested, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when he and his fellow fishermen did, their nets filled to overflowing. Peter suddenly realized he was in the presence of one who had been sent by God, and he was overcome with his own sense of unworthiness (Luke 5:1-11, Revised Standard Version).
As we prepare to participate in the Lord’s Supper, there will always be a sense of unworthiness. This is not true only when we first come to Christ. The more we grow in our understanding of God’s revelation in Christ, the more we become aware of our own sinfulness and shortcomings. And hence, the more we realize our dependence upon his forgiving grace.
Perhaps it is like this. As we meditate in preparation for the Lord’s Supper, we think of the time in the preceding week when we were unkind or hurtful to someone. Or we are mindful of sinful thoughts we not only harbored, but even reveled in, whether or not these thoughts were acted out. Or perhaps it was simply a matter of becoming so involved in one’s day-to-day work that little or no thought was given to the work of Christ.
But now it is Sunday morning. We are singing a Communion hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” And in surveying the cross—that is, reflecting on how God became flesh in Jesus Christ and died on the cross for our sins—we are mindful, if not overwhelmed, with a sense of unworthiness. And we cry out in our souls, “Lord, have mercy on me!” And when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we do not say, “Lord, depart from me for I am a sinner.” Rather we pray, “Lord, come into my life anew because I am a sinner.”
Preparation for the Lord’s Supper requires that we be mindful of our unworthiness so we can once again recognize the richness of the grace we receive through the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Robert Wetzel, retired after serving as president of Emmanuel Christian Seminary for 15 years, still lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.