Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. … Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me. Psalm 51:1-3,9-10
Honesty about our condition is the beginning of blessing. The words of David prayer – For I know my transgressions – remind us that reflection is an indispensable part of a Spirit-filled life. We are a people of joy but, like David, our joy has God’s grace and pardon in Jesus Christ as a backstory. If we accept God’s grace, we are acknowledging our ongoing need of it. As one who sought and experienced God’s grace, David tells us in Psalm 51:17, that a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
The season of Lent is a time to contemplate the pardoning grace of God and our need of it. The church calendar marks the sacred seasons and times for believers worldwide, reminding us of God’s marvelous redemptive work in our history. It adopts the chronology given in the book of Acts with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover feast. Of course, the months and dates associated with all of the seasons and events on the church calendar, like December 25th for the birth of Jesus, are not the actual dates in history, but we know they did happen! The dates are commemorative.
As evangelicals, I believe there is great value in recovering aspects of our larger Christian tradition as a means to reflection and critique in order to help us refocus on genuine Christian spirituality in our increasingly secularized culture. Renew a right spirit in us, O God!