On Being Unworthy To Serve

unworthy to serve

When I post something on this site, I am writing to you. Some of you are baptized Orthodox Christians. Others are considering Orthodoxy, or merely curious about a faith all but unknown in America. But I try to consider what you need to hear when I sit down to write. I pray that I will have something of worth to say.

I don’t write to you enough. Many times I don’t know what to write. I don’t know the condition of your soul, or what you’re dealing with in your personal life. And I don’t feel worthy to put my experiences and opinions out into the world for consideration.

I don’t pray as much as I should. It’s always too long since my last confession. I can’t keep fast days with regularity or hold my tongue or my anger. Why should I have a platform for promoting the Holy Orthodox Church?

Unworthy to Serve At The Altar

I arrived early for our Wednesday night service. Traffic was lighter than normal, so I walked outside and began picking up a few pieces of trash left by the homeless who sometimes hunker on the grounds behind the church. I used that time to pray and prepare myself for the service.

After two years in this church, I still have feelings of being out of place, like an impostor. Four decades of Protestantism don’t just vanish overnight. I often feel a sense of unworthiness as I stand before the icons or listen to the hymns.

Back inside, I prepared for another service where I would sing praises and prayers, aware of my sins and my unworthiness.

As the time to begin the service drew close, our priest asked when his server would arrive. Running late, was the answer. With an impish twinkle in his eye, my priest asked if I was ready to serve.

I had assisted in certain liturgical functions from time to time, but never in this fashion. The priest led me into the sacristy, and had me put on a white robe embroidered with gold. I fumbled to get it on correctly, and took too long to get the single button at the neck fastened. All the while he smiled and told me to take my time.

He led me into the temple and then had me escort him into the altar, instructing me on the proper method of stoking the censer and where to stand in the service. As the service progressed, he quietly pointed out when I need to add more incense to the censer, or when I needed to move to one side or the other. His calm and sure-handed guidance overcame my nerves and uncertainty.

After the service he was kind and I was grateful for being allowed to serve. I was unworthy. But he gave me a position of honor anyway, despite my unworthiness.

God’s Grace Makes Us Worthy

The Prodigal Son was given a ring and a fine robe. A dinner was held in his honor, drawing the ire of his more obedient brother. Their father had put the younger son in a place of honor not for his righteousness, but for his returning home.

It’s we who are in our sin that need grace. We cannot pray enough, or fast enough, or work hard enough to earn our salvation. All we can do is continue the work, and allow for God’s grace.

I’m unworthy to serve as some guide to Orthodoxy. But God has seen fit to let me write. So I will continue in the hope that through my unworthiness, some of you may find worth.

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