Seeing Ourselves in Lent: Psalm 32
Dear Kaleid Women,
Lent is the season of the church calendar that precedes Easter. Lent carries us into the way of Jesus by offering us 40 wilderness days. These days of connecting with our human need for God through prayer, fasting, and service beautifully precede and prepare us for 50 days of feasting that the church recognizes as “Eastertide.”
There is beauty in rhythms...winter to spring...night to day...fasting to feasting...sin to redemption. When we take time to observe Lent, we are taking our physical selves into the spiritual reality of the need for Christ’s deep and powerful work in the world, in our communities, and in us.
For centuries, the Church has held a special place for the “seven penitential psalms” (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) during Lent as a means of locating ourselves both in the center of the reality of our broken, human frailty and in the reality of God’s faithful, healing love.
Today and over the next few weeks, we invite you into Psalm 32. We want to draw back the curtain on a few ways this Lenten psalm in particular invites us to see ourselves and to see God with more humility and clarity. The psalm is one of both thanksgiving and instruction, so may we enter our consideration of its truth with a heart-posture of gratitude and humility.
This morning, let’s just look at the first two verses together*:
The good fortune of the one whose rebellion is carried, whose failure is covered over!
The good fortune of the person for whom Yhwh does not count waywardness, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!
As we consider these verses, notice two sets of words:
First, there are three words for “sin” (rebellion, failure, and waywardness) that mark the experience of the person who is the subject of the psalm. Three is a number in the Scriptures that symbolizes totality or completeness. In these verses, we are looking at the total condition of human brokenness. As humans made in the image of God’s Trinitarian love, we have been made for and invited to live in the love of God and to live a life of God’s love in the world. Inevitably, we have failed at this invitation and so we find ourselves washed up on the shores of rebellion, failure, and waywardness in the ways of love. This is our state.
Second, there are three ways that the psalmist portrays God’s faithful forgiveness (carried, covered over, does not count). The work of God toward our brokenness is complete, and it offers us an overwhelming set of solutions. The forgiveness of God is that which carries us. It is that which covers us. It is that which does not count sins against us. Where we try to shoulder our own burdens on bent backs, God lifts it all and carries us. Where we try to hide from our own deficiencies in the way of love, God covers us over with grace and care. And where we deeply desire to even the score of our lives through doubled down effort, God does not engage such methods of accounting at all.
Today, as we engage Lent, let it be a way for us to acknowledge ourselves--all of our human effort and human frailty--as known, loved, and touched by the grace of God in Christ.
Go in peace, dear ones.
The Kaleid Team
*We will use the translation from Hebrew to English of Dr. John Goldingay, a prolific and insightful Old Testament scholar.
P.S. - An interesting reflection on giving things up for Lent.