Scripture: Psalm 51
Key verse: (1) “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
Reflection: Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the day in the church calendar that begins the season of Lent in which 40 days are set aside (excluding the Lord’s Day on Sunday) for self-examination and penitence. The name Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of making the sign of the cross on the forehead while hearing the words: “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19) This practice reminds us of who we are as human beings – frail and mortal. Not all Christian traditions observe Lent. Protestants are late to this practice that began in the medieval Roman Catholic church. Many protestants churches still don’t observe this season, but each year we do. Psalm 51 is most often used (of all the penitential psalms) to express our collective remorse over what we have done and what we have left undone. It is a combination of confession and hope of restoration. Attributed to King David, who committed adultery and arranged for another man’s death in order to hide an unwanted pregnancy, Psalm 51 is a prayer for anyone who seeks forgiveness from God. Praying that God will show abundant mercy, David states that he knows what he has done wrong and he asks God to wash his sin away with the hope that he might have a new heart and a fresh start. His story reminds us that God’s forgiveness is never beyond our reach.
Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives and seek forgiveness where it is needed. How will you spend Lent this year?
Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].