“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10
On Wednesday of last week we held a special service entitled, “The Lyrics of Lent.” The service was a combination of songs, scriptures, and stories that are rooted in the themes of lent. Our first scripture reading came from Psalm 51. This Psalm inspired the following reflection from Pastor Mary:
“When I was growing up, my family had certain rituals, certain traditions… like any family. Some of them I really looked forward to – like spending Christmas Eve at my grandma’s house with all of the cousins. Most of our traditions were fun… but there was one tradition that I really dreaded. One weekend a year, our family set aside a whole weekend… for spring cleaning. The whole house would get a scrub from top to bottom. And when we were cleaning, we couldn’t just do what we would normally do – shove all the toys back in the toybox and hide messes in the closet. During spring cleaning weekend, we had to painstakingly sort through everything. We each had a box we had to fill with things we were willing to give away. I remember it feeling like torture… but as I got older, I began to be able to appreciate how refreshing the clean house felt – and how much less cluttered it was.
“In its own way, the tradition of Lent that we practice as a church feels similar to the spring cleaning my family did. This journey of preparation is one that takes place in our hearts. We look inward in order to take stock of what we are filling ourselves up with, to notice the things that are cluttering up our minds and our hearts. We might ask ourselves What things are keeping us from living more fully and which things – or people – or memories – or emotions – are we clinging to that are preventing us from drawing closer to our God? What pain or shame is hiding in the dusty closets of our hearts? Where do we need to release our grip or our desire for control? And where might we need to repent and turn ourselves back to God? Where do we need to make more space for the Spirit?
“In the book of Psalms, King David models this inner work for us. You see, David had a secret hidden deep within his soul, one he hoped that would remain hidden forever. He had committed adultery and then killed the husband of the woman he loved so that he could have her. But his secret would not stay hidden. A prophet of God named Nathan confronted him. Nathan flung open the doors and shined light onto David’s behavior, exposing David and making him face what he had done. And when that happened, David had a beautiful but painful opportunity – an opportunity to do some spring cleaning. David had to sort through what he had done, he had to clean out, scrub out that which was keeping him from God. This process of repentance led him or his courts to write Psalm 51, which speaks of his plea for forgiveness and cleansing. It reads:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
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 crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Friends, while we are all in need of some spring cleaning of the heart and we are all in need of God’s grace, the good news of our scriptures is that we have a God who is full of forgiveness and who is abounding in steadfast love. And God desires to make our hearts clean.
I encourage you to find online or in your music collection, the song based upon this scripture, “Create in Me a Clean Heart”.