Friday, January 14, 2011

The heart of the matter

Jumping right into the lectionary thoughts today (as always, the lectionary readings can be found here:  )
If you are like me and grew up going to church, Sunday school, church camp in the summer and youth group then the words from verse 10 of today's morning psalm (51) are very familiar to you: 'Create in me a clean heart, O God'.  
I am pretty sure every single person of my generation that was in anyway involved in church as a child or youth has sung that song around a campfire, at least once (if not a thousand times).  
Truth be told I don't know that I ever really thought about it.  I don't know that I ever thought about just how important that prayer to God is.  Below is verse 10 - 13:

10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

What a powerful and essential thing a clean heart is.  It is essential to the words and requests that follow it: 'cast me not away from your presence'; 'take not thy holy spirit from me' ; 'restore unto me the joy of your salvation' and 'renew a right spirit within me'.  
It is only when we have a clean and pure heart that we are able to hear God's Word for us clearly. 
It is only when we have a clean heart that we are able to be in the presence of God.  
It is only when we have a clean heart that it is a suitable place for the holy spirit of God to dwell and live.  
It is only when we have a clean heart that we can rejoice in the joy of the Lord and in the salvation that comes from God.  
It is only when we have a clean heart that we can maintain a spirit of willing, grateful and faithful service to God's will for our lives and the world.  
Our life of actually following God, walking in the path of Jesus Christ begins and can only continue when we have a clean heart.  
I don't know about you, but I am not very good at keeping a clean heart.  Anger, jealousy, lust, fear, pride.  All of these things regularly stain and dirty my heart.  Usually before I am even out of bed for the day.  
How do we then begin to follow God?  Is it a lost cause, a useless effort?  Of course not.  
The psalmist was no more perfect than me - but the key is that he knew it.  The psalmist doesn't say, 'I have endeavored to make a clean heart for myself', but rather petitions God, asking 'create in me a clean heart'.  
We are dirty, stained and imperfect, we are simply not capable of creating anything clean on our own.  But this is why and what Jesus came for.  In and through Jesus Christ we have access to a clean heart and a transformed life.  
A clean heart is ready for me, if I would simply ask God for it.  A clean heart is ready for you if you would simply ask God for it.  
What a difference it might make if we started everyday with a clean heart.  A clean heart centered on God's presence, filled with God's Spirit and overflowing with a willing desire to do God's will.  
We can never begin to see that difference if we don't first ask God to create that kind of heart within us.  It is a request, I suspect, that I will have to make over and over again.  Probably several times a day.  
May you - and may I be open to God's creation of a new and clean heart within us.  May our clean hearts be filled with the Spirit of God and may a desire to be faithful to God's will and mission in our lives flow freely from the clean hearts God will create in us.  

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