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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 51:1–12

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. (NRSV)

Each week when we gather for worship, one of the pivotal moments of the hour is confession. We don’t do it alone in the dark when no one is around to hear us but all together in the light of the sanctuary and seated next to our neighbor.

This psalm attributed to David is perhaps the strongest expression of confession I can imagine, and it is widely understood that it was meant to be a very public statement, an acknowledgement of his sin, and a plea for forgiveness. His sin was severe—adultery and murder—so it is no wonder that in this psalm he painfully bares his soul. At the heart of David’s plea to be forgiven and cleansed is the recognition that without forgiveness he is bereft of God.

Forgiveness is tough. When we have been wronged in some way, whether real or imagined, by a friend, family member, coworker, or a chance encounter with a stranger, it is a lot easier to let ego and self-righteousness drive our response. Often we carry it with us to the detriment of relationships and even leading to estrangement. We are full of judgment, which clouds the ability to forgive. I guess this is being human and flawed. We treat forgiveness as something we bestow in expectation of a response.

However, Jesus taught us that forgiveness requires no quid pro quo. And this psalm shows us that no sin is too great to remove us from the unconditional love of God. This is the unearned gift of grace. Our lesson: to be as unconditional and grace-full each day in life, forgiving as we know we are forgiven.

Lord, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Amen.

Written by Ken Ohr, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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