Reading: Psalm 51:1-17
Verse 3: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
As we begin to lean into Ash Wednesday we first turn to this powerful Psalm. These words are the heartfelt confession of King David. Adultery and murder are the two “big” transgressions at the heart of these words, but they are far from the only sins committed. It can be easy to dismiss the lessons of this Psalm as we think, ‘I’ve never committed murder or adultery.’ If that’s the case, please take a second and read Matthew 5:21-30.
To me the beauty of this Psalm is that it is equal parts confession, trust in God, and a desire to live in such a way that not only David but others can become closer to God. David begins where most of us should begin – asking God for mercy and for cleansing. In verses 3 we learn why this is the place to begin: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Like all of us, David recognizes that he has been sinful since birth. That is just part of the human condition. Beginning in verse 6 David expresses a desire to be better: “teach me wisdom… cleanse me… wash me… blot out my iniquity… create in me a pure heart… renew a steadfast Spirit within me…” David knows that he falls woefully short of who he could be. And he humbly turns to the only one that can change him: God.
Tomorrow evening many of these words will be spoken. The ashes and songs and words will remind us of our shortcomings and of our humanity. The cross made in our forehead or hand will remind us of the only one who can change our hearts. With the same trust and humility as David, may we surrender self to God and commit to walking closer to who God created us to be.
Prayer: Lord God, yes, my sin is ever before me. The words, the thoughts, sometimes the actions – they reveal the depths of humanity within me. Lord, hear my confession and repentance. Cleanse me again and again of my transgressions. Lead and guide me to live my faith more consistently, more honestly, more humbly. Amen.