Thursday, March 10, 2011

Create in Me A Pure Heart

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 
                                               -- Psalm 51:10-12

Some times it's easy to gloss over scripture and make unexamined assumptions.  For instance, without reflection one can assume that a willing spirit, or a pure heart is already ours.  Lenten liturgies that use these verses often communicate a subtle presumption of our holiness or purity.  A prayer, a cross made on the forehead with ash and we're good to go.  But do we really pause long enough to check if we feel the pure heart, the steadfast spirit, God's presence, the Holy Spirit, or a joy in our salvation?  I think liturgies can, at times, communicate a hurry-up expectation; where the words are rattled off and absolution and blessing - like a magician's "abracadabra" restores our perfection -- benediction complete, "go in peace."

This is perhaps too quick of a jump to the Easter good news.  There is a wisdom that The Church has held onto the 40 days of Lent prior to Easter.  It is 40 full days to explore deeply within ourselves some questions we might not really want to explore except very privately with our God.  Questions such as, do I really want a clean heart?  Is my spirit willing or steadfast?  We may not even be ready here on the first days of Lent to say yes.  Sure, "yes" is the right answer, but is it MY answer right now?  If not, why not?  Perhaps the VERY first piece needs to be a prayer of the sort where we pray to desire to want a willing spirit or pure heart.  Truthfully, taking on either one can directly change your whole existence and life habit.  We should never be in a rush to get some place spiritually just because others are already there, or want us to be there with them!

With Lent we are granted time (40 days) to search our hearts honestly for and with ourselves.  We are granted time to ponder where our souls reside, to not be pressured too quickly to arrive at conclusions, which need to be more gently grown or fermented or aged.  We are granted time to be still and just know what God already knows about us, and to take in the knowledge so that we can then do something with it creatively and constructively for God.  I pray for God's spirit to sustain you in your work to be present with yourself and God in the coming days.  Ponder these days of Lent and prepare carefully and thoughtfully.  Amen.

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