We are now entering into Lent. February 25 marks the beginning of Lent with ashes and the familiar remembrances of our dusty origins and our dusty destinies. The next 40 days (46 if you add the “little Easters” of Sunday back in) takes us to Easter Vigil on April 11. May your times of prayer and repentance and disciplines draw you more deeply into the good news of the empty tomb that will greet us after this season of preparation.
This Sunday—if you are so inclined—look at the baptismal font at your church. It may well be octagonal. There is a direct connection between the shape of the font and the appointed epistle lesson which is 1 Peter 3:18-22.
Blessings on your Lent.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(appointed psalm for Ash Wednesday)
Our psalm comes after the prophet Nathan confronts the king David.
- Nathan confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 12:1-13a)
- David had relations with Bathsheba after lusting for her from the rooftop. (2 Samuel 11:1-5)
- David had Uriah killed off to help deal with an awkward pregnancy. (2 Samuel 11:6-17)
- The baby died soon after birth. (2 Samuel 12:13b-23)
- David’s family continued in turmoil in part because of this transgression. (keep reading 2 Samuel)
David’s sin left two dead and many wounded.
The great and might King David brought grief and destruction upon many by yielding to a moment of fleshly weakness. Rather than face the misdeed in a more honorable way he heaped sin upon sin in attempting to cover it up.
And in the aftermath David received a more glancing blow of the results. Uriah died while David remained married to Bathsheba and they together had Solomon. The child first child born to David and Bathsheba lived only seven days—not even long enough to formally receive a name while David’s name continues to be praised and exalted to this day. Doesn’t seem so fair.
When we sin the consequences bear down. Many times there are others who must bear at least as severe a consequence as us. Our greedy and covetous lifestyles have much to do with hunger and deprivation in the world (see Slumdog Millionaire if you want a vivid image of a life much different than our own). Our inability to repent and forgive can be a gift that filters down generation upon generation. The drunk driver often stumbles away from the corpses that aren’t so lucky. Doesn’t seem so fair.
David’s psalm of remorse and repentance is so powerful that it makes it into the liturgies of the church (many places since “Create in me…” weekly). There is a powerful song by Keith Green based on these verses as well. (you can hear it on YouTube).
Sin wounds and kills us. Sin does at least that much to those around us. Sin drives a wedge between us and God. Thankfully the nails driven into Jesus have a greater result than the sin that so often drives us. There is forgiveness available to all of us. Consequences of sin might continue but restoration and new hope are palpably present as well. In spite of all his failings God loved David. In spite of all of our failings God loves us too.
God help us flee from sin. But when we don’t—and won’t—chase after us with the reckless love best seen through the lens of Jesus on the cross. Help us pray with confidence and bless our times of preparation this Lent. Amen.