Seeker: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”
Preacher: We are all sinners. If we look deep inside ourselves, we know where we have gone wrong, and what we could have done better. But it is hard to look that deeply into ourselves and so we prefer not to. Days like Ash Wednesday and church season like Lent invite and encourage us to examine ourselves.
Seeker: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”
Preacher: Many may say, “I have not hurt anyone; I have not caused anyone harm. I am truthful and kind in all things.” But when measured against the Lord’s precepts and example, we fall short. And it is God we have let down, and not necessarily our fellow being. The gap between what we know we should do and be like, and we are actually is the area and arena of our sins.
Seeker: “You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Preacher: The Lord speaks to us, convicting us of our sin. But the Lord also speaks words of love, encouragement, forgiveness and mercy. While we may be desolate in our sin, we are not with out hope and not with out a remedy for our sin.
Seeker: ”Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.”
Preacher: And where there is hope, there is peace and harmony – yes, joy and gladness. We are not left alone but are comforted by our Lord . . . and by the faith that urges us to seek out our Lord.
Seeker: “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.”
Preacher: Those who have learned of these things – the mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness of the Lord – are compelled to pass this blessing and gift along to others. Both in the way we treat others, forgiving them, and teaching them of God’s blessing of forgiveness for them.
Seeker: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”
Preacher: Both those who are taught and those who teach come to the Lord together. Yea, we a mixture of each, the taught and the teacher. These roles come to us, each in their own time; the taught becomes the teacher, and the teacher learns. Both come before God, and both need to come before God, asking and relying on God’s restoration for us.
Seeker: “Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Preacher: We come before God, bringing only ourselves. We leave behind our wants, and yes, our fears. Our will and our demands have not place before God. They vanish in the better way of the Lord’s teachings.
Seeker: “For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:1-17)
Preacher: The Lord does not despise us, we who are sinners and confess our sins; we who willing doing penance. The Lord loves us, and has provided a way for us to be made pure and holy, finally in the perfect image of our God! For that brief shining moment that we are free of sin. Praise be to God, however, that the Lord loves us in our sinful nature. Because . . . our sin is ever before us.
Seeker: It is part of being human that we can go from being forgiven to being laden again with sin. We are blessed indeed to have a Lord who loves us when we could be deemed unlovable. This is a Lord to abide with.
Preacher: “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalms 91:1-2)
Seeker: When we are hard pressed and the world seems to be closing in on us, the Lord makes a safe place for us to dwell.
Preacher: “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”
Seeker: When we walk with the Lord, and trust in the Lord, we are made safe from the things that threaten us. Even in our sinful nature, the Lord looks out for us.
Preacher: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.”
Seeker: Our sinful nature tests the Lord, but the Lord does not abandon those who seek out God and follow God.
Preacher: “ Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.” (Verses 9-16)
Seeker: May we give praise and thanksgiving to our God. May our praises and adoration be lifted up, and may all the people join in saying, “Amen!”