Psalm 51:10-14 (NRSV)
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.
I don’t know what it says about me, but as far as I’m concerned, Lent is always the most meaningful season in the liturgical year. In fact, Ash Wednesday may be my most anticipated worship service. (It’s in a close contest with Christmas Eve for favorite.)
What is it that makes Lent so profound? I believe it’s that the season seems set aside for what I need most: a journey of returning to God, again and again. I know God never leaves us, but I have a deep need — like the prodigal son — to return to the Father. And God is there every day of this journey, not (as the late Dutch writer and theologian Henri Nouwen observes) saying darkly, “Heh, heh… I always knew you would need me again.” But rather, God welcomes our return like the prodigal son’s father — with love, compassion, and tenderness.
The 51st Psalm seems the perfect starting-off point for a journey of returning. The prayer of David is a brutally honest confession of sin and of the need for reconciliation with God — and a recognition that the journey of reconciliation is not one that people can make on their own. Indeed, David declares that God is the one who can “create in [us] a clean heart… and put a new and right spirit within [us].” May it be so for us individually and as a worship community; and may we all have a most blessed Lenten journey this year!
Dear God, here I am again… returning. Thank you for always welcoming me — flaws and all — in your love. In our shared Lenten journey, we pray that you would grant us the strength to confess our weaknesses and the wisdom to see and confess our foolishness to you. Please reveal yourself to each of us anew and grow our faith. In Christ’s holy name we pray, Amen.