Isaiah 1:2-4, 16-20
Psalm 50:7-15, 22-24
Much of the snow here melted last week, changing our perspective. The grounds and gardens came back into view. As soon as the river thawed, rowers went back out in their sculls. We see what was hidden: water, plants, and paths along with trash and twigs. Lent invites revealing, attending to what has been hidden, and reordering our lives. It may include gathering the trash and raking up the twigs within our souls, what we can see is out of place.
God says through the prophet Isaiah in tonight’s scripture: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. … Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove evil … cease to do evil.” It is more than lawns or riverbanks and more than simply tidying up. Wash yourself from evil. From denying goodness in each other. From denying goodness in ourselves and in the world. From all our little to large words and actions and inaction—including allowing others and systems to act on our behalf—all that degrades, oppresses, shames, and enslaves.[i]
Particularly in Lent, we are called to realize, name, and turn from our sin. As we will sing: “Lenten gifts invite us, searching deep within, claiming our desires, naming all our sin.”[ii] Not in order to beat ourselves up. Not because God wants revenge. Rather, surrender by acknowledging our need and receive grace. God comes wanting to save.
God wants to extend good life to all, not only stopping evil. “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” Blessed, we are to be a blessing, sharing life with others. From receiving, we live with gratitude. In Psalm 50 says: “Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me … .” Not simply ritual or tidying up to look good but thankful hearts from having received mercy.
God gives a further image through Isaiah of a distinct promise. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” God wills to save. As in today’s collect: O God, you willed to redeem us from all iniquity by your Son. Deliver us when we are tempted to regard sin without abhorrence … .”[iii]
I feel like I may see the trash or twig and have trouble acknowledging what is deeper. Perhaps we are like children so engaged playing with mud or goo that we’re not aware of needing a wash and don’t know how to wash ourselves. As in Psalm 51, we may surrender to ask God: “Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin. … Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.”[iv]
The Rev. Kiran Young Wimberley says an image that came to her for Psalm 51 is that of a parent gently and thoroughly washing their young child.[v] Perhaps this is a helpful change in perspective for our prayer, to recognize ourselves as rebellious children, and to see God as a gracious parent who generously and lovingly washes us clean.
Yes. Wash me. Show me the mess that I’ve gotten myself into. Yes. Wash me. I can’t do this myself. Yes. Wash us. Thank you.
[i] Adapted from our Confession of Sin. https://www.ssje.org/Chapel/Bulletins/2021-03-02 Tuesday – Lent 2.pdf
[ii] J. M. A. Wright “Lenten Gifts” https://www.ssje.org/Chapel/Bulletins/2021-03-02 Tuesday – Lent 2.pdf
[iv] Psalm 51:2, 9
[v] Kiran Young Wimberly (Host) February 21, 2021. Episode 4: Examining Our Spirits in the Mess of Everyday Life. Psalms for the Spirit: A Podcast about Spirituality and Resilience. https://psalms-for-the-spirit.captivate.fm/episode/ep-4-examining-our-spirits-in-the-mess-of-everyday-life-with-padraig-swan
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