‘Who does he think he is?’
Growing up as a disillusioned teenager in a disastrous Anglican Church, we were required to recite the same liturgy every week. My mood would rise or fall depending on which version of the Rite for Holy Communion we would be using. Some seemed significantly shorter than others.
But it was the prayer of humble access that really used to press my buttons. It’s that phrase ‘we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under your table’. ‘Who does he think he is?’ God, I mean. To an arrogant fourteen year old they were enough to light the inner blue touch paper. They’re no less easy on the ears of a slightly less arrogant forty year old. But I don’t struggle with them in the same way that I used to. They’re true. I’m not worthy to gather up the crumbs from under the Lord’s table. And I’ve come to see that. Or rather, God has persuaded me.
What’s changed? Well, I’ve come to appreciate who God is and who I am. God is immeasurably, inconceivably, breathtakingly wondrous in the perfection of his righteousness, love and wisdom. I am not. I’m far from that. Even in my regenerative state as a man under divine reconstruction, I am not worthy. The Spirit of God may be making me more like Christ, but I’m still a work in progress – as are you. And we’re not worthy.
But that’s not the whole of the story, is it? Even though being permitted to scrabble around on the floor picking up the things that God brushes off his table would be a privilege, God goes further. He goes so much further. He invites us to sit with him at his table as a guest, to enjoy his companionship and to enjoy all the good things he lays on for us. It’s the difference between what we are by nature and what we are by grace. God graciously get us up off the floor, pulls up a seat and welcomes us to himself so that we might know him and enjoy him. For ever. He is the same Lord who ‘delights in showing mercy’.
It’s good for us to say the prayer of humble access. I actually love saying it these days. It’s very good for my soul to be reminded what I have because of God’s generosity to me. It may stick in our throats when we first hear it. But as we become more familiar with the God of the Bible and the wickedness of the human heart, we’ll discover it’s true. And we’ll be able to say it with conviction. And with joy. As many of us already do.