Date: March 9
Lectionary Link: https://www.lectionarypage.net/WeekdaysOfLent/WednesdayFirstWeek.html
Contributor: Mike Sirany
After reflecting on the readings for Wed, March 9 (Jonah 3:1-10, Ps 51:11-18, Luke 11: 29-32), I found myself drawn to the portion of Psalm 51 that says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (NRSV, either verse 10 or 11, depending on the translation). As I write this on Ash Wednesday, it seems an appropriate starting place and base for my Lenten journey this year.
Psalm 51 is considered a part of the second “book” or collection of psalms, believed to have been compiled after the rebuilding of the temple (about 515 BCE), with a focus on worship in the Jerusalem Temple. This particular psalm seems to focus on a person’s restoration to moral health, with a recognition of one’s sinful nature and need for healing and change of heart that only God can effect. With an awareness of having been born with a sinful nature, the writer implores God to have mercy, wash clean all of the sins of the past, and to restore the “joy of salvation” that comes with living in the light and truth of God’s love. Or as a contemporary, dynamic translation renders this portion of Ps. 51,
“Fill me with happy songs,
Creator, reshape my heart,
God, steady my spirit,
Save me, bring back my joy, support me, strengthen my will…”
(vs. 10-14, The Liturgical Psalter, LTP, c. 1995).
Reflection on one’s sinful nature has somewhat fallen out of favor in more contemporary religious practice, especially given the past over-emphasis on our fallen-nature and under-emphasis on the inherent goodness each of us is born with in the image of God. For me, however, it is very helpful to be reminded of the many times I fail to live in the light of love and trust in God’s ultimate goodness. This psalm reminds me of my need for help from God, and dependence on God’s healing love and grace to do in me what I cannot do on my own. It is a fitting Lenten prayer for me this year.
Thus, this Lent I pray: “Creator, reshape my heart; God, steady my spirit.”