The sanctuary was darker than usual this morning. The sun was not yet beaming through the vivid stain glass that typically characterizes the room. There were no vestments or other things to add “color” apart from the minimal candles upon the altar table behind the bowls of ashes. As we sat quietly and vulnerably before the Word of God, Rev. Brian Dale drew our attention to Psalm 51…verse…zero?
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
There it is. The sin that produced the psalm in print in the sacred Book, recorded forever. Pastor Brian used the word “impolite.” For the first time I think of how odd this is, this seemingly insignificant line before Psalm 51:1. The book of Hebrews quotes the prophet Jeremiah when it says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Heb 10:17-18, Jer 31:34) I personally rebel against revisiting my sin. I thank God that He remembers it no more.
And yet it is only the sin that could produce the rich beauty of Psalm 51, a Psalm of intimately drawing near to the God of grace and forgiveness, cleansing, restoration, and renewal; not sin as a vague and general notion, “Ok, yes, I realize I’m not perfect. We’ve all done things we’re probably not proud of.” But the specific act of sin, “that one time when…”. Do you merely admit to be a part of a depraved human race? Or can you actually point to the darkness and depth of your own need for God? Ash Wednesday reminds us not to wallow in our sin but to remember with a purpose, to reflect on the dust we came from and the Cross where our identity and salvation are found. There is no pardon without confession, no freedom without previous bondage, no recreation without destruction. Light only comes to dark places.
“Remember, from dust you came and to to dust you shall return.”
“Repent, and believe the Good News!”