FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
The season of Lent is placed in the liturgical calendar to invite Christians to reflect with solemnity on the gravity of Christ’s saving work upon the cross. We rejoice in Christ’s birth at Christmas, we rejoice at his resurrection at Easter, we even rejoice at his atonement for our sins on Good Friday. But the Christian life is not without sorrow. Even in our faith in Christ, we battle against the desires of the flesh. Paul bemoans this fact in Romans 7:18-19 when he writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
Thus the purpose of Lent is to call us to confess of our sin and plead for renewal in our walk with God. One poignant example of this comes from today’s reading, Psalm 51. This song was written by David, just after his infamous affair with Bathsheba. For those who aren’t familiar with the tale, in short:
1) David rapes Bathsheba (who’s married).
2) Bathsheba becomes pregnant.
3) David has Bathsheba’s husband killed so he can marry her.
4) Nathan (the priest) calls David out on all of this.
In case it wasn’t clear, these are grievous sins. David has messed up big time. Yet rather than being driven away from God in fear and shame, he is drawn closer to God to plead for restoration. The following heartfelt words from David demonstrate his anguish at his sin; find encouragement in his confidence in God’s justice and mercy.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me… (But) 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 broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:5-10).
There are few things more invigorating in one’s spiritual life than heartfelt repentance, because awareness of the depth of our sin points directly to the purity of God. Have you ever felt so guilty or ashamed that you felt physically ill? Martin Luther comments that left to ourselves, “sin with its terror and despair is so mighty that it crushes even the bones” (Reading the Psalms with Luther, 124). Even so David is confident to plead with God, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” God’s grace is greater than your sin. Christian, on the cross Christ defeated the power of sin and death in your life, and this is our only cause for true rejoicing. In that moment, he took on himself the punishment for your sin so that you might be washed whiter than snow in the sight of God. May this picture of unending, uncompromising love lead you to genuine repentance before your Father. Do not hide in shame or fear of his judgment; instead, run to him in the filth and stink of your sin, and find that you have been washed even more deeply in his grace.
Susan Wallace is a junior studying psychology and theology.