Psalm 51:1-17 (NRSV)
Verse 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Verse 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Verse 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Verse 4Against 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.
Verse 5Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Verse 6You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Verse 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Verse 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Verse 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Verse 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Verse 11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Verse 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Verse 13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Verse 14Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
Verse 15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Verse 16For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
Verse 17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Today's reading is a psalm of confession and repentance, one of the major themes of Lent—and something that perhaps many of us would rather avoid. To look our own failings straight in the face can be scary and overwhelming. Too often, we don't know how to solve the messes we get ourselves into. Where to start? How to make it right? On our own, it is difficult—nearly impossible—to change our patterns of behavior, and sometimes we can beat ourselves up pretty badly in the process of trying.
Today, become aware of God's compassion for you. It's enough, for now, to notice the ways that you are broken, and to hold this awareness gently before God. It is by God's grace, not by your own frantic efforts, that you will be given a clean heart and a new and right spirit in the season to come.
Gracious God, hold me, sinner that I am, in your compassion. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit so that I may reflect your goodness in the world. Amen.