Tag Archives: Psalm 32

Step Four on Ash Wednesday

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Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

(Psalm 32:5-6)

A couple of weeks ago my AA sponsor and I knelt together as I prayed that God would “relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do his will … and take away my difficulties, that my victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life” (Big Book 63).

This prayer of abandonment to God’s will is what AA calls Step Three and what the Book of Common Prayer calls in the Ash Wednesday liturgy “a right beginning of our repentance, and a mark of our mortal nature” (BCP 265).

Today Lent begins, and for me a very particular process of self-examination and repentance.

I have reached the point in my recovery where it’s time to begin Step Four — to conduct a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself — and then to take Step Five, to admit to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.

Though I have been in the Church all my life, I am beginning to understand for myself the wisdom of traditional practices like Confession, what the Book of Common Prayer calls Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP 447). We need at times to write down what we’ve done wrong, to say it out loud to another person, and to hear from them our Lord’s assurance of forgiveness.

Lent is a particularly appropriate time for this hard and holy work, and I am embracing it gladly as my main observance this year.

And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
(Canticle 14, BCP 91)

Whatever you may decide to do to mark this Lent, I invite you to take it seriously but joyfully.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer (BCP 265).

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The God of those who repent

On Ash Wednesday, we read Psalm 95 in its entirety at Morning Prayer.

The first seven verses are familiar, of course. Many of us read them every morning. Today, however, the familiar line “Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice” continues with the plea, “Harden not your hearts” (Ps. 95:8).

With the psalmist, far from hardening our hearts, we also acknowledge our sin to God, and we do not conceal our guilt (Ps. 32:5). Repenting is the characteristic of those who follow God.

The Collect of the Day reminds us that God hates nothing God has made. We are not to hate ourselves or anyone else, but instead to work every day to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). It takes discipline to repent, discipline that “seems painful rather than pleasant at the time” (Heb. 12:11).

But “you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,” says Manasseh in Canticle 14, “and in me you will show forth your goodness.” The discipline of repenting, of not concealing our sins, “later yields the pleasant fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

May the God of those who repent, the God who hates nothing God has made, open your heart in this Lenten season so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. Every blessing for a holy Lent.