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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Have mercy on me

According to your steadfast love, O God, meet me with your forgiveness

Each Ash Wednesday, as we gather to begin our Lenten journey, we hear the haunting words of Psalm 51. The most introspective of all the psalms, it's the quintessential psalm of confession and penitence through which we each stand alone, naked before the Almighty.

"Have mercy on me," we each say. "Grace me," we are asking in Hebrew, for deep in our being we seem to understand that only God's grace can reach the depth of our sin.

Psalm 51 is strictly between each individual and God. Whatever our sin, we — as the psalm's superscription suggests — are caught in our sin like King David, caught by Nathan in adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12). As David's sins have a story that Scripture recounts, we have our stories of sin against God and neighbor.


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