‘Create in me a clean heart,’
It is no coincidence that Psalm 51 is appointed for Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent. The psalmist’s words capture the depth of meaning of the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is that time of self-reflection and confession and acknowledging our need of God and God’s grace.
Psalm 51, is a plea to God, a prayer for forgiveness. The psalmist laments his sin and is clear that only God can deliver him. He wastes no time getting to the point, ‘Have mercy on me, O God,’ he says in verse 1, ‘wash,’ ‘blot out,’ ‘purge,’ me.
The psalmist is unequivocal that we all do things big or small that draw us
away from God, and that hurt others. Confession is part of our regular church liturgy, but Lent is a more deliberate time of reflection and repentance and at its heart, is a growing understanding of our dependence upon God.
I remember hearing this story told in church, of St Peter sitting at the pearly gates and a woman approaching him.
Peter says, “Tell me why I should let you in?”
“I have gone to church my whole life,” the woman says
Then Peter reminds her that she has been unkind to some of the members of the church.
“Well,” she says defensively, “I bought shopping every week for a couple of members.”
Peter points out that she had on occasion used the member’s money to buy a couple of things for herself as well. The conversation continues like this and the woman becomes more and more defensive and distraught, clearly beginning to panic at the thought that she might not be allowed into heaven.
Finally, she falls to her knees in tears and desperation and says, “Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.”
Immediately, the pearly gates swing wide open and Peter says,” Welcome home, my child.”
This is not the end of the story, however, there is a promise inherent in the psalm, which is one of recreation and redemption, recognizing that God not only saves us, but also gives us new life. ‘Create in me a clean heart O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.’ Verse 10
The person who wrote Psalm 51, was of course writing long before the birth, life and death of Jesus, yet their lament for their sins and their awareness of their need for God’s deliverance, makes this psalm so appropriate for the beginning of Lent and Ash Wednesday. As we begin the season of self-reflection and repentance, we follow the psalmist’s example recalling how we have fallen short and how we are in need of salvation and deliverance that comes from God alone. If it seems all sack cloth and ashes at the start we cling firm in faith that we journey towards the hope of Good Friday and the promise of joy found on Easter Sunday.
May God bless you richly, as you seek to deepen your relationship with Jesus this Lenten tide.
Rev Julia February 2018
LENT GROUPS: ANOTHER STORY MUST BEGIN
Based on the film and novel Les Miserables, and looking at 4 characters from the story, this 4 week course explores the grace of God, and asks us to reassess what we can do with our lives for ourselves and for those around us.
It runs at 2pm on the following Tuesdays @Wesley