Lent is a peculiar time in the Church year.

The season kicks off with Ash Wednesday, a service during which we are called to truly acknowledge and hold our mortality before God and each other. We are marked for mortality and for our own failings and sin, and we receive the promises of God’s faithfulness and goodness and love, even in the midst of our lack of those things. We confess our sins, and we ask for forgiveness.

I think that is something we don’t do enough of in our culture—ask for forgiveness. Instead, we bear witness to half-hearted faux “apologies” from celebrities caught cheating on their spouses. We listen to politicians who manage to turn corruption into opportunities for viral news moments. We see leaders commit moral failings and then simply pull back from the spotlight for a few years until they reemerge without any shred of irony or recognition of what they did.

Each year on Ash Wednesday, the lectionary offers us Psalm 51. The lectionary breaks the Bible into a 3 year cycle for worship services that follow the church calendar, so that over the course of 3 years, a church would read the entire Bible together. Yet each year, Psalm 51 returns for Ash Wednesday.

This powerful hymn of repentance was written with King David in mind. Particularly in the aftermath of his predation on Bathsheba and his attempt to cover it up by having her husband killed in battle. This episode is found in 2 Samuel 11-12. God was not satisfied to simply let this be covered up, so the Scripture says that God sent the prophet Nathan to Kind David. He tells him the story of a beloved lamb in a poor man’s family. It is the only possession that he has of value. The ewe was “was like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12:3). I can obviously relate to this when it comes to my dogs.

But a rich man steals this ewe and slaughtered it to feed some house guests. Upon hearing this story, King David is outraged at the injustice and demands that the rich man be put to death for this horrible crime.

Nathan declares, “YOU are the man.”

Now, imagine the scene. A whistleblower stands before the most powerful leader in a country, tells a story that tugs at the heartstrings of said leader, and then reveals that the story is bogus and the real criminal here is the leader before whom they stand.

We have seen this sort of movie before. We know what comes next—a swift execution, a smooth cover-up.

Except that isn’t what happens.

Instead, King David responds with repentance and acknowledgement. He admits that he has sinned. This is a major plot twist from what we have been trained to expect. And so this psalmist wrote Psalm 51 as a reflection on the nature of repentance.

This Lent, I’m not so concerned about giving up stuff. Some of you will feel called to that, and so you should. I’m pondering what it would look like to take up the habit of seeking forgiveness or the habit of having grace for others. Maybe it would look like saying a short prayer for the people who cut us off in traffic. Or the people who push other more deeply felt buttons. Or maybe it would look like practicing being the first to apologize instead of fighting for our pride or just waiting for them to “get over it.”

So this Lent, let’s walk together. Let’s learn to confess together. Let’s learn how to walk with Jesus.

-Pastor Megan