A Call to Worship
Ash Wednesday, Year B 2018
Psalm 51: 1-17

God of steadfast and unfailing love: we humbly come into your Holy Presence.
We come today to worship our God, because we need God’s acceptance of us.

God of amazing faithfulness: we come into your Holy Presence with our regrets.
We come into God’s Holy Presence to be cleansed of sin and to receive blessings.

God of mercy, grace and compassion: we come into your Holy Presence aware
of our sin, aware of our failings, and we offer you our worship, praise and thanks.
We come in to God’s presence to be restored to the joy of fellowship together; as
we celebrate the confident hope we have in God’s generous and gracious healing. Amen.

Psalm 51: 1-17
For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet
came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognise my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgement against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.

6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O LORD, that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Prayers of Confession and Trust
Ash Wednesday, Year B 2018
Psalm 51: 1-17

God of steadfast and unfailing love: we come today to worship our God and to
humbly come into your Holy Presence, because we really need your acceptance
of us as individuals and as a faith community. We come today to confess that
even though we know our sinful natures, we have continued on our selfish ways;
and still failed to be whom you created us to be and become. We confess that
we have failed in our use of the gifts with which God has blessed us; instead we
have used them to influence people to our way of thinking; and our selfish plans for
self or mutual aggrandisement. We have also taken advantage of your confused,
vulnerable, frightened or fragile people who are always open to an abuse of power.
Forgive us, we pray, and create within us a new and honest approach to ministry.

God of amazing faithfulness: we come into your Holy Presence with our regrets
over our rebellious nature and behaviour; to be cleansed of sin and to receive your
blessings. We arrogantly believe we know what is best for every member of our
faith community; or the community where we reside; forgive and renew us. The
psalmist sang: “…I recognise my rebellion; it haunts me day and night…” Holy
God, whilst we may not want to be haunted by our guilt and sinfulness; grant to us
we pray, the sensitivity to know that our shared, rebellious natures can separate
us not only from God; but also from those with whom we need to communicate.
Forgive us, we pray, and create within us a sensitive attitude in all relationships

God of mercy, grace and compassion: we come into your Holy Presence aware
of our sin and our failings, and in response to God’s compassionate grace and
mercy, we offer to you our worship, praise and thanks. Welcoming God, we come
before you with the confident trust and hope that God will not reject us if we have
a “…a broken and repentant heart…”; therefore, we come into God’s presence
praying to be restored to the joy of fellowship together; and to receive the gift of
generous and gracious healing that God offers to us. May each person gathered
here for worship today, in all sincerity pray these words: “A new heart create in me,
O God; a steadfast spirit renew in me, O God. In your mercy, in your mercy.”
Forgive us, we pray, and create within us again the joy of God’s gentle forgiveness. Amen.

A Personal Meditation
Ash Wednesday, Year B 2018
Psalm 51: 1-17

This psalm selection is set for prayer and meditation every Ash Wednesday, and
it always summons within me feelings of guilt and self doubt. I have read Professor
Walter Brueggemann’s work on Psalm 51 - and hope that I am forgiven for quoting
at length from his book “From whom no secrets are hid” on Psalm 51. In various
chapters he writes thus: “…It is striking in Psalm 51, the quintessential penitential
psalm, the penitence is finished by verse 9. After that, the psalm is replete with hope-
filled imperatives that expect God the creator to lift the psalmist from the vexation
of guilt and alienation to the possibilities of new life…”
[The author quoted Psalm 51:
10-12] “These lines are filled with hopeful, insistent petition, with the word ‘rauch’
[earlier translated by NRSV as ‘spirit’] occurring three times. It is a bid for God’s life-
giving breath…The psalm goes on to praise and to acknowledge that what God
desires is a ‘broken rauch’, a shattered sense of self-autonomy. The sum of these texts
is glad dependence and a full recognition that life without God’s ‘rauch’ is impossible…”

Creative pause: “A new heart create in me, O God; a steadfast spirit…”1

With their ever-developing understanding and experiences of the LORD their God—
the ancient people of Israel discovered that through their covenant agreements
that God had gifted to them, many of them through the centuries grew to cherish that
relationship with God; and the ‘hesed’ that God offered to them. I have written before
about God’s ‘hesed’, but a reminder may be necessary! ‘Hesed’ means that God
loved those chosen people with a steadfast and unfailing love, and with an amazing
faithfulness, mercy and grace. Brueggemann continued in Chapter 11: “…in verses
1-9, there are petitions that God should deal effectively with the sin that leaves the
speaker helpless and disqualified. This textual unit is dominated by the double ‘blot
out’ verses in 1 and 9. That verb suggests the purging of a court record or, alternatively,
a priestly act that covers over the power of the affront…”
3 Each of us have prayed
countless times that God will “blot out” our sin; and then with renewed hope, trust and
faith in the God of absolute mercy, compassion and forgiving love; we have started
anew on our faith journey - praying that we will not grieve God - or hurt anyone else.

Creative pause: “…a steadfast spirit renew in me, O God. In your mercy…”1

Another theme that Brueggemann often uses is “truth-telling” before God. Although
God knows each of us better than we know ourselves, the purpose of the call to
confession of our sin during shared worship encourages and enables people to be
honest with themselves; and also honest with their “truth–telling” to God. Yet, how
often and easily we trick ourselves with the rationalisation of our actions, reactions
and thoughts! The author concludes thus in chapter 11: “…Psalm 51 makes available
the truth of our life before God. On the one hand, it resists arrogant autonomy that
imagines (with David) that we can live without accountability or dependence on the
will and purpose of God. On the other hand, it contradicts the practice of denial that is so
seductive in a society that has no time, patience, or energy for the nurture of an interior
life. It turns out that truth-telling before God is an indispensable condition for joyous existence...”

Creative pause: “…LORD have mercy, LORD our God have mercy, mercy on us all.”4

1 From “Quiet my soul” CD track 4
© 2003 Monica Brown & Emmaus Productions

2 Text by Professor Walter Brueggemann
from “From whom no secrets are hid” Chapter 6, pages 73/4
© 2014 Westminster/John Knox Press
Louisville Kentucky USA

3 Ibid - Chapter 11, pages 107 & 112

4 From “Comfort my people” CD track 12
© 2000 Monica Brown & Emmaus Productions
All words and music by Monica Brown
Used with personal permission

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).

I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological help and inspiration so frequently available from the writings of Professor Walter Brueggemann and Professorial brothers Rolf and Karl Jacobson; and the resources from "The Text this Week" (Textweek).

If the Prayers and/or Meditation are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2018 Joan Stott –‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year B. Based on verses from Psalm 52.
Used with permission.


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