Repentance and the Bread of Life
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:11
Psalm 51 is traditionally linked to David’s repentance over the taking of Bathsheba and killing of Uriah. It is the epitome of lament over sin and returning to God. It is central to the Book of Common Prayer language of reconciliation and our celebration of Holy Week. I pray the verse quoted above every time I wash my hands before the Eucharist.
This week’s readings tie together in that moment in a particular way. As we delve deeper into John 6 and the reflection over the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus begins to turn the crowd from the bread in the field to the Bread of Life.
As we gather to break bread each week here, we carry this reading with us in our theology. “I am the bread of life,” says Jesus to the crowd that he is teaching. As we receive that bread we are called by the liturgy and its actions to search our hearts and repent. We are always to prepare to receive the bread by confessing our sins.
That little washing of hands moment we inherited from the Seder is one of the modeling moments of preparation when we enter into mysteries that are too great, demand too much, and call us to be more than we are as children of God, men and women seeking God, and as human beings before the great I AM who has seen us, called us, and loved us.
And, it is that great God who loves us, calls us, and sends us out to be his children, men and women of God, and new human beings in Christ.
I cannot do any of that through my own power, but I am fed by the Bread of Life himself at the table where we gather each week. That is humbling. So every week I pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” because I know that my heart is not clean, not yet.
We are still passing through the wilderness of this life, still seeking to enter the Promised Land of peace, justice, and the unending light of God. But in these liturgical moments, we remember and we hope.
We remember that we have seen the Promised One, we have been called to his table, and we are his. We belong to Christ. And so we can pray with confidence, “and renew a right spirit within us,” because he is faithful. He has sent his Spirit to abide with us and work in us and through us to bring the his forgiveness and peace to others as we have received it in these communion moments and in the moments of repentance when we have turned to God, and returned to God.
David returned to God, contrite and changed, though he would deal with the results of his sins for the rest of his life. He was not an innocent man, but he sought God even with tears and lamentations.
Join us Sunday as we see David’s repentance and receive the Bread of Life together. Join us as we follow Christ our Shepherd to the green pastures of peace and forgiveness, justice and light.
The Very Rev. Daniel Paul Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona