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 is Shrove Tuesday, sometimes referred to as “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday. I have lived in communities that had “Pancake Day” fundraisers on this day and other traditions have festive celebrations on this day. I have often been asked, “What are you going to give up or sacrifice for Lent?” Today’s psalm focuses us in a quite different direction: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Verses 10-12 are often sung as the offertory prayer during worship: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” This is a prayer we might all do well to remember in the coming Lenten season—and perhaps even to pray on a regular basis at other times.
Dear Jesus, be with us as we prepare for Lent and follow you on the way to the cross. Help us to repent and turn again to your gracious love. Amen.