Homily for Ash Wednesday 1st March 2017

 Psalm  51 v 1-17

Opening Prayer

Well there is probably no better way to begin to think about our journey through Lent – a season of penitence in the churches year than to consider for a few minutes this Psalm of David.

It has been described by one of the commentators in these terms:-

“Amongst the outpourings of the human heart agonised by the consciousness of sin, this Psalm stands pre-eminent

It finds its roots in the events of 2 Samuel Chapter 11 King David’s coveting and then theft of another man’s wife, his adultery with her, his murder of her husband, and then his conspiracy with his chief of staff to cover up the facts - five of the 10 commandments broken in one sordid and cynical enterprise

Here is a man who through the prophet Nathan is brought face to face with his actions and turns him to repentance and confession in a psalm that has become famous and which we are all familiar with

David is able in this Psalm to realise the extent of his sinfulness

“For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me”

Here in this Psalm David recognises what we might call the doctrine of original sin – we were conceived in sin it is a part of our human condition that we cannot escape from but that we can acknowledge.


Here in this Psalm; after confession comes restoration – after David has poured out his broken and contrite heart we hear in the second half of the psalm Promises for the future:-

David feared –as had happened to Saul when David became king, that the spirit might depart from him -and so he pleads with God in verse 11 do not cast me from your presence or take your holy spirit away from me.

He asks God to create in him a pure heart

He asks God to restore to him the joy of his salvation

He asks God to open his lips that his mouth might proclaim Gods praise.

We see very clearly confession leading to restoration and that’s why this is a great passage to reflect on as we begin our journey that will lead us to the cross and to holy week.

We too are men and women made in the image of God.

We may have not stuffed up to the same extent as David did – but we are all guilty – we all mess up – we don’t love God with all our hearts, we don’t think the best of others.

Yet the promise of this Psalm is that if we truly pour out our hearts to God in genuine repentance and sorrow – “if we are truly sorry and repent of all our sins” as the ASB used to put it

Then as surely as night follows day; we will see God’s wonderful mercy at work and his promise of restoration and a future will be as real today as it was in the time of this mighty King of Israel - a man after Gods own heart.

May we in the words of King David be able to say this lent

“Have mercy on me O God, because of your unfailing love”

And to know Gods wonderful promise of forgiveness

“Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow let me hear joy and gladness”

We ask for his glory sake