Generous God, we gather here before you, despite our sinfulness and isolation.
A Call to Worship
Lent 5B 2015
Psalm 51: 1-12
God, in your abundant mercy, hear our prayers for your forgiveness and grace.
Loving God, we gather here, very conscious of our failure to be faithful to you.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayers for renewal of our shared relationship.
Gracious God, we gather here before you to worship not only with thankful hearts—
but also in honesty, and in full openness to your healing grace and loving mercy.
God, from the depths of your great compassion, hear our prayers of remorse and
regret because we have failed to maintain our part in our holy and loving relationship.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and make us willing to always obey you. Amen.
Psalm 51: 1-12
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 recognize 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 judgment 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.
Prayers of Confession and Petition
Generous God, we gather here before you, despite our personal isolation
Lent 5B 2015
Psalm 51: 1-12
caused by our sinfulness. We have dishonoured the sacred relationship
with which God has so lovingly graced us, and we feel a real sense of loss
and sadness at our failures to be faithful. We come to confess to you our
sin that separates us from God, and from each other. We know we have
sinned against God, and we have degraded our living and our lives before
the One True God, whom we are commanded to love with fidelity and with
our total commitment. We come to confess our guilt by honestly mourning
our failure to live as a true and full partner in a covenant relationship with
God; and to live in harmony with our neighbours. God, in your great mercy
and the abundance of your faithfulness and grace – hear our prayers today.
Loving God, we gather here in the bright light of God’s righteousness, which
illuminates all the darkness of our sin and guilt; and the light which breaks up
the shadows that we hoped would protect us, as we try to deny the sin we
seek to hide from God. Faithful God, cleanse us of the grime of living that
stains our lives and which pollutes all that is pure and good within; and heal
us from all the contamination that spoils the holiness of our relationship with
our God. Generous God, in your great mercy and in the abundance of your
faithfulness and grace – hear our prayers of remorse and confession today.
Gracious God, we gather here before you today to worship you not only with
thankful hearts, but to ask that you will create within each of us a clean heart
and to also renew a spirit of loyalty to God within each of us. We rejoice in
God’s creative capacity to actually give each of a new heart and soul; and to
grow and energise within us a new spirit of loyalty to our Liberating God. We
also ask that you do not deprive us of the presence of your Holy Spirit in our
living, in our loving, or in our worship. We pray that you will not banish us
from your blessed company; but to restore and enliven us with the joyful good
news of God’s salvation! O God, hear our prayers confession and petition today. Amen.
A Personal Meditation
The psalmist was writing not only on behalf of David (or even of himself)—
Lent 5B 2015
Psalm 51: 1-12
but also on behalf of the people of Israel who had also sinned against
God. God was described as being filled with “mercy”; “unfailing love”; of
having “great compassion”. The author described himself (and Israel) as
being “stained by guilt”; as being one who “sinned”; someone who daily
and nightly experienced “rebelliousness”; and who had committed “evil”.
Those are very contrasting descriptions! The person was haunted by guilt;
whilst also longing for God to overcome the estrangement and isolation
of sin through God’s mercy, God’s great compassion and unfailing love.
|Creative pause:||Do these personal descriptions sound familiar?|
Our usual “sinning” is often against a family member, a friend, a neighbour
or even a stranger; but in Psalm 51 the psalmist understood that he had
sinned against God! Despite that, I often become quite angry when I read
these words: “...Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done
what is evil in your sight...” I always want to respond to this confession:
What about the woman who was defiled? What about the husband who
was so conveniently removed? What about all the other relationships that
those sins destroyed or damaged? “... It is life before God that creates an
awareness of sin that eventually leads to hope for life beyond sin. Thus
the speaker can say ‘...Against you, you only...’ The double ‘you’ suggests
that the affront... is a violation of the first commandment....”1 According to
Exodus and Deuteronomy, God’s first commandment is: “...I am the LORD
your God, [who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your
slavery.] You must not have any other god but me....”2 Jesus taught us
that ‘“...You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul,
and all your mind.’” And equally important “'Love your neighbour as yourself.'”3
|Creative pause:||Was Jesus’ teaching on the first commandment only an explanation?|
We do not know if God accepted the plea of the psalmist in Psalm51. After
our Prayers of Confession in the liturgy, there is normally a “Declaration of
Forgiveness” or an “Assurance of Pardon” proclaimed by the authorised
worship leader. However, it is always God who heals us, forgives our sin,
and renews us; and this is usually included as part of the statement of
forgiveness. “....Fulfil now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best
for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to
come life everlasting.”4 We live in hope of God’s forgiveness, through God’s
grace and mercy; trusting in God’s unfailing love, compassion and faithfulness—
made known to us through all God’s promises given throughout all the ages.
|Creative pause:||“Great is [God’s] faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”5|
1 Text by Professor Walter Brueggemann
& William H Bellinger Junior from “Psalms”
Psalm.51, page 236
© 2014 Cambridge University Press
2 Exodus 20: 2-3 (NLT)
3 Matthew 22: 37-39 (NLT)
4 Part of prayer offered by
St John Chrysostom 347-407.
5 Lamentations 3: 23 (NLT)
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 inspiration available from the writings of
Professor Walter Brueggemann; and through the resources from the internet and “The Text this Week” (Textweek).
If the Prayers and/or Meditations are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2015 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year B. Used with permission.
Download/view a pdf file of this document here: lent5b_2015.pdf