Twice in seven verses the psalmist’s plea to God is, “Wash me.” Isn’t this, indeed, what forgiveness feels like? I think about a long, warm shower after a run in the bitter winter cold. I remember splashing with delighted kids in wading pools on hot summer days, or scrubbing dirt off my skin after physical labor. Washing brings refreshment and renewal.
I usually wash myself. Letting someone wash you requires deep vulnerability. I remember playful baths as a young child, my dad scrubbing behind my ears. When I was a teenager, after a horrible elbow injury, my mom helped me bathe. When I was pregnant and bloated, my spouse washed my swollen feet, and I cried. It felt like mercy. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in an intimate moment of blessing. Wash me. We take on a passive posture. We must be still and welcome God’s tender and nurturing attention. We must be willing to let God see us naked, to find dirt stuck in our creases and under our nails. Yet if we are willing, God is sure to offer mercy. We will find rest in God’s soothing touch. We will rise anew and clean, filled with the joy of resurrection.
Lent is a time of spiritual check-in. It is a season to slow down and reflect, to get quiet enough to see our toxic patterns and hear God whispering to us. Through transformational practices like prayer, fasting, meditation, and confession we can experience renewal. God washes us clean. Glowing with newness and illuminated with grace, we go out in the world as living examples of good news. Death does not have the last word.
God of mercy, I stand before you, naked in all my imperfection. You know my smallness and the ways I hide and hurt. Wash me clean. Gently offer me the relief, renewal, and new life that comes with your forgiveness and love. Amen.
We can maintain outward appearances for only so long. At some point what is in our hearts will come to the surface. God understands this, of course, which is the reason for the promise in Jeremiah. God promises a day when God’s law will no longer be an external standard that we are trying to follow but will be written on our hearts. In the aftermath of his sin with Bathsheba, David cries out in Psalm 51 for God’s forgiveness and a new heart. The New Testament readings begin to focus our minds toward the end of Jesus’ life. God’s transformative work comes at a cost to God through the death of his Son, who suffered in obedience but through his death was glorified.
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. What are the covenant relationships in your life? How do you fulfill your part of the covenant with God?
Read Psalm 51:1-12. What are the things that clutter your heart, limiting your availability to fully love?
Read Hebrews 5:5-10. When have you offered your prayers “with loud cries and tears” as Jesus did? How does knowing Jesus’ vulnerability impact your life of faith?
Read John 12:20-33. How does this example of the grain of wheat help you to understand Jesus’ crucifixion and death?
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