A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.


We gather in silence.

GATHERING SONG            “The Glory of These Forty Days”          red book # 320




PSALM 51:1–17

PSALM 103:8-14

HOMILY                                                                                     Pastor Chris Halverson

The Psalmist often sings songs seeking salvation—seeking help—help from God against a variety of enemies—

the prosperous wicked,

the foes armed with hatchets and hammers,

and those who talk of laying snares in secret—aiming bitter words and hatching secret schemes and cunningly conceived plots.

Psalm 51, the Psalm we read each Ash Wednesday, however, is one of seven penitential Psalms. It is a song sung seeking salvation, not from external enemies, but from an internal enemy.

Today the Psalmist sings to God: “Save me from myself O’ LORD.”



Psalm 51 is described as being written on the occasion when  the prophet Nathan came to David, after David had gone into Bathsheba.

This event is found famously in the 11th chapter of 2nd Samuel. King David peers out his window and sees Bathsheba—the wife of Uriah, a soldier in David’s army, bathing. David tells his entourage that he wants her—and they obediently fetch her. They commit adultery together—

(Thought I should add, because one of my Old Testament professors would kill me if I didn’t—that when the King sends his servant to your house to “get you.” And takes you to his bed chamber and has sex with you its entirely possible you are an unwilling participant.)

One way or another, either adultery or rape—the psalm was written in response to David recognizing his own sin—that he is his own enemy, and crying to the Lord, “Save me from myself.”


“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.”


After King David found that his sin with Bathesheba produced a child he decides to cover his sin up—to make it right by adding to the lie. He brings Bathesheba’s soldier husband, Uriah, back from the front and tells him to sleep with his wife—Uriah, out of solidarity for the men he commanded, refuses. Then King David tries a second time, he gets Uriah drunk, hoping he would abandon his oath to abstain from sex until his fellow soldiers too could be back with their wives—and yet Uriah still stands strong.

David—to hide his sin, tries to corrupt the one he sinned against.


For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

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.


And saddling sin atop sin David continues down this dark path. He sends Uriah back to the front with a note to deliver to commander. This note commands Uriah to go into the thick of the battle and lead his soldiers against an impregnable wall—guaranteeing his death. This leads not only to Uriah’s death, but the death of the men he commanded.

And if that wasn’t enough Bathsheba hears of her husband’s death, and even as she weeps David forces her to be wed to him—of her discontent and mourning he makes a marriage bed.


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.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.


Then the court prophet Nathan—David’s advisor—comes to David with a parable.

There was a rich man who had a whole flock of goats, and a poor man who had only one small ewe. That little sheep he treated like a daughter, it slept upon his bosom and ate with his family.

This little lamb was stolen by the rich man with the great flock, and cooked for the rich man’s party.

Immediately David makes a judgment against this rich man, saying, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.”

To which Nathan responds, “You are that man.”


What woe from David—“Save me from myself O’ LORD.”


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.


And that’s precisely it—to David’s cry—which is our own, after all we are all sinners of our own hands, women and men in need of God’s love and mercy—people crying out like David “Save me from myself O’ LORD.”

To these cries of “Save me.” God does what God is known for doing since the beginning—He creates!

He creates clean hearts and renewing righteous spirits within us.

Just as at creation God speaks the world into being, so to does God speak cleanliness into us.


God does this because God has not forgotten where we come from—even if we have.

God knows that in the beginning there was Adam from the Adamah—Earthing from Earth, Human from the hummus.

That from the beginning, God breathed life into us dust creatures, and without Him we are without breath.

God knows from what we are made—that we are dust and to dust shall we return.

God knows this reality which we remember today—imposing upon our brows that which is already there in God’s eyes—dust to dust ashes to ashes.


And we read this reality which will be on our brow shortly,

we read in our other psalm today—

another psalm of David that fact—that humbling fact—

ashes to ashes dust to dust—

We read that that fact is why God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

We all, like David cry out “Save me from myself O’ LORD.” Because we are all dust, held together by God’s grace alone—

created and renewed by God.

God’s mercy spoke into us so that we might sing of our deliverance and teach transgressors the way of our God.


And boy does God’s mercy sing out.


It sings out that “the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

It sings out that God’s anger is not forever.

It sings out that God does not deal with us according to our sins and iniquities.

Sings out that God’s steadfast love reaches beyond the atmosphere.

That God is the Compassionate Father.

God knows that we are dust, and therefore breathes his spirit within us-dust men and women…

God restores His love within us,

God renews our heart and removes our sin.

God wakes us up like the bud of a newborn flower.

God brings us through the destruction of death to the fullness of Christ’s risen life and joy.

That we may meet God face to face.

HYMN of the DAY                     “Restore in Us, O God”                red book # 328



PRAYERS of INTERCESSION                 


OFFERING & OFFERTORY ANTHEM                           “Remember”




“Just As I Am, without One Plea”                    red book #592