How often do we listen to what we say and pray in church? This question is rather direct, more direct than you may have experienced with me, but none the less it is direct. It’s intention is not to make anyone feel bad, but is truly an important and interesting question. How often do you we listen to what we say and pray in church?
August is a new month for us and so we are refreshing some of our prayers and hymns on Sunday. The choices are not haphazard, but rather they are very intentional. For example, listen to the confession that we pray together:
Have mercy on us, O God,
According to your loving kindness.
In your great mercy,
wash away our inequity
and cleanse us from our sin.
Create in us clean hearts O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.
Do not cast us away from your presence,
nor take away from us your Holy Spirit.
Restore us to joy of your salvation,
and give us a willing spirit.
Does this sound familiar at all to you? Can you perhaps recall hearing some of the words elsewhere in church?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”
A line from Psalm 51, asking God to not abandon us, even when we feel as though we are not worthy to stand in the presence of God. Please God, we pray, do not cast us aside for being wrong or struggling to get things right. Rather, help us grow. Help us learn. Help us be reconciled to God.
Psalm 51 is attributed to King David - you remember, the guy that beat Goliath and gained favor with God to be king over God’s people.
David is lamenting to God, asking God to help him. To not cast aside David for his mistake - and a huge mistake it was. David committed an act of adultery and is now pleading with God to forgive him. This adds a new dimension to the words so beautifully crafted.
While our offense may not be the same as David, we can stand with him and say “yeah, we feel like this sometimes.” We make mistakes, we want to have a more pure heart to worship God.
And you know what, right in the words of absolution on Sunday we are reminded that through Christ we are reconciled to God. Through Christ we not only bear the image of God - but the image of God is borne in the face of people right in front of us! In the faces, I assure you, of every human person. David was also reconciled and was the heir to a great kingdom.
Create in me a clean heart, O God!
Next month we will hear these words once again, not in the beginning of our service but in the middle.
Through our liturgy we are called to listen closely to what we say and pray in church. Listen because we will hear words again and again calling us closer to God. Words calling us closer to community and closer to one another.
As we begin to make these connections from our prayers and hymns, we gain a deeper understanding of our faith. Sometimes we do this through Bible Study, sometimes through the service of Word and Sacrament on Sunday. I would like to invite you to another opportunity as we look toward hearing stories of faith and how the Spirit is at work in our everyday lives.
I am exploring the idea of telling Bible stories for just fifteen minutes after church. Grab some coffee and some food and come hear just a short snippet of a Bible story. Then, go back to coffee hour and have a good time.
Would you be interested in this? No pressure, no need to feel as though you will be called on. Just sip some coffee and listen to a story. Coming up, the faith story of Ruth.
Let’s talk throughout the week and this Sunday and see if this might be an idea we all can explore together.
Yours in Christ,
- Pastor Jason