Dear "Wretched Worms," [No offense! Please, keep reading...]

Honestly, I mean no offense by that salutation.  I just want to say a few words in defense of "wretches" and "worms."

Are you still there?!  What prompted this is that we recently sang the classic hymn "Amazing Grace!" during a worship service.  I'm well aware that its opening line makes some people almost retch: "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!"  They strongly dislike calling themselves wretches.  After all, a wretch is a despicable person of mean or worthless character, and if the shoe doesn't fit, why try to force it on?  And it's even worse in the original version of "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?" whose opening line asks: "Would He [Jesus] devote that sacred head/For such a worm as I?"  More recent versions have softened the language to: "For sinners such as I?" which, I suppose, goes down a little easier than worms.  To call someone a worm is to call him or her a groveling, contemptible person, and who wants to be characterized like that?

But there's something to be said for wretches and worms, rightly understood.  Paul, for instance, frustrated by his inability to consistently do the good that he wanted to do, and to resist the wrong that he wanted to avoid, cried out, "Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?" answering his own question with his next breath: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7: 24-25)  The word "wretch" signifies a condition of misery, distress, woe, and helplessness of spirit, which is precisely our condition before Christ's amazing grace delivers us.  And as for "worm," even our Messiah is so described in Psalm 22, which begins with the well-known words "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and goes on to state: "But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.  All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 'Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver--let him rescue the one in whom he delights!'" (Psalm 22: 6-7)  The word "worm" suggests a feeble and helpless condition, which was precisely our spiritual state before our Savior bled and died for us.  Others may balk, but I, for one, will not be ashamed to acknowledge my spiritual wretchedness and "worminess" ("wormfulness"? "wormosity"?), all the better to appreciate how Jesus has delivered--and is still delivering--me from both conditions.

May God give us all the grace to examine ourselves and repent of our sins, leaving behind any wretchedness that still clings to us and, by the transforming power of the risen Christ, undergoing utter metamorphosis from worms to butterflies.  May it be so for each of us.

Your fellow wretched worm,

(Rev.) Peter A. Brown