Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a; Psalm 51:1-12; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
I highly recommend today’s lectionary reading from 2 Samuel. It’s not highlighted or copied here but it is a great story of how we find ways to sin and cover up sin and justify sin.
In the narrative, King David is physically attracted to Bathsheba and so he arranges to have her husband Uriah (one of David’s loyal soldiers) sent off on a dangerous mission where he is killed. Sex, politics, intrigue, confrontation and a look into the human heart follow.
Oh, and some comeuppance. (I just wanted to use the word comeuppance.) Take some time and read 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. Needless to say there were lots of comeuppances to come and that is a large part of the story of David’s life.
The following Psalm is traditionally held to be David’s confession to God after his adultery and the resulting chain of events. He has been confronted by his sin and David pours out his personal guilt. He has nowhere else to go except to the One God – Yaweh – who demands the best of David but will still love and forgive.
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.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – Psalm 51 (NLT)
Have you ever had to say, ‘I’m sorry’?
No, I don’t mean for small things like, ‘Sorry I forgot to feed the dog’ or ‘I’m sorry I dropped potatoes on the floor’ or ‘Sorry for kicking the cane out from under you old lady but you were so short I didn’t see you’?
No, I mean have you ever had to apologize for being hurtful, insensitive, inappropriate, selfish? Have you ever said something that you shouldn’t have said? Have you ever done something that you knew was wrong but you did it anyway? Have you ever ignored conscience and consequences because in the moment you only cared about yourself?
Sin is not so easily defined as we think. Breaking God’s ‘laws’ is traditionally how we think of sin but those laws are very open to interpretation. A closer definition comes out of broken relationship where self love is elevated above love for God or others. The cost of these types of actions have a ripple effect in the world that begins with the ‘victim’ but extends far beyond what we can see. In one sense that is freeing, in another sense it is frightening.
Think of how a lie can travel and morph and hurt beyond the original use. Think of the current effects and generational results of abuse. What do criticism, absence, insults produce in a child? In any person? I could go on. There are as many examples of sin reproduced and multiplied as there are people.
I believe that if we knew – truly knew – how far-reaching the effects of our sinfulness, both overt and secret, we would immediately repent and make huge changes to our ways. However we can’t see that picture and frankly don’t try to see it.
But surely there is a place to begin repairing the pollution of our sin.
How should I think differently about sin knowing that it has ripple effects that reach way beyond what I can see?
How should I think and act differently knowing that sin is ‘breaking relationship’?
What sin in your life (big or small) comes to your mind?
When you are ready, it needs repentance, repair, change.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name.
(Episcopal Book of Common Prayer)