Subscribe in a reader
Back to All Events

Penitent’s Psalm, Psalm 51

Transformation of Heart and Mind

There are many ways to atone for our sins. In David's time, he would have worn sackcloth and ashes. He would have fasted and prayed for days. He might have offered sacrifices to appease the angry God (gods). Today, we might confess our sins quietly during worship or even confess to another person. We might beat ourselves up for our errors, and swear never, ever to do it again.

But David knows that what God truly wants is a complete and utter transformation of our hearts. It is not enough just to say we will do things differently, or to engage in empty rituals, just to turn around and make the same mistakes over and over. God wants to see change within us. David also knows that change does not come without aid. He asks God for the transformation of mind and heart that will make a lasting difference.

For me, the only way to truly transform my heart and mind is to first recognize what I have done or failed to do. Awareness is a gift (although it often feels like a curse) - a first step toward change. My awareness comes when I take a fearless look at myself, my actions, my thoughts, how I handle my relationships, my job, my faith, my life. Fearless is the key - it can be terrifying and horrifying to take an honest look at myself. But when I see myself in all my raw authenticity, I can also see the genuineness that God has fallen in love with. I see not only the things in need of transformation, but also the things already transformed. I see goodness, kindness, compassion, growth, faith, spirituality, curiosity, eagerness, gentleness, and love.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 51

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
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. 

For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is ever before me. 
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
   and blameless when you pass judgement. 
Indeed, I was born guilty,
   a sinner when my mother conceived me. 

You desire truth in the inward being;
   therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 
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 sustain in me a willing spirit. 

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will return to you. 
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
   O God of my salvation,
   and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 

O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise. 
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
   if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased. 
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
   rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
   in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.