ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS February 16, 2023 On Valentine's Day, Donna was out of town visiting her dad, and so we didn’t have any plans outside of a phone call. I left the church rather late that night but needed to run by the grocery store to grab a few essentials. As I walked into the store, the floral department was immediately to my right, and for Valentine's Day, it had expanded. But at that late hour, there wasn’t much left, and what remained looked sad. There was a guy wandering around looking at the pathetic selection, and he kept on saying out loud, "I am a bad, bad man!" I’m embarrassed to say that I laughed audibly, which was not the kindest response to his pain.
Later, as I thought about it, I found myself intrigued by the language of "I am a bad man." It was probably said as a sort of humorous confession, but language is important. Missing Valentine's Day, an anniversary, or a birthday is not a good thing, but our language should differentiate between making a mistake (totally dropping the ball) and being a bad person. As someone taught me years ago, if we ever say, "I am…," it must be followed by something positive and life-affirming. God self-identifies as the Great I Am (from the Burning Bush story in Exodus), and the Gospel of John draws upon that language with the "I Am" Statements by Jesus (I am the bread of life, I am the resurrection and the life, etc.). So I was taught that any time we start a sentence with the words, "I am…," we are acknowledging the divine within us, and if God is within us, then we cannot be bad. Oh sure, we can make some bad choices; we can totally blow off an important date on the calendar and find it necessary to beg for forgiveness; we can be total knuckleheads, but the Gospel seems to suggest that we can still say, "I am… one of God’s beloved."
Wherever I may have messed up or brought injury to another human being, I pray for the capacity to confess and make the necessary amends. But God, no matter how selfish or short-sighted my actions might be, I do not believe I have fallen beyond your grace. I still hold within me the divine breath, and I pray for its power to guide me more faithfully in the ways of Jesus. Amen.