Monday Matters (February 23rd, 2015)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, February 23, 2015

Renew a right spirit within me.

Let’s just say that it’s getting to the point where I’ve been through a few Ash Wednesday liturgies. That fact brings the occupational hazard that it becomes familiar, occasionally even rote. I’m not proud of that, but I suspect good Episcopalians shaped by liturgy polished over centuries, know what I’m talking about.

So last Wednesday, when I participated in the liturgy that begins this holy season of Lent, I was interested that these words leapt out at me. From Psalm 51, I was struck that the call of the season of Lent is the prayer that God will renew a right spirit with in us. I’ve read it many times, but this year I was particularly interested in the psalmist’s choice of the word renew. What synonyms might have been used? Revive? Reboot? Resurrect? Reinvigorate? Resuscitate?

But the word that is chosen is renew, and maybe because I work for an organization called RenewalWorks, my ears perked up. So this Monday, at the beginning of the season of Lent, I want to consider with you what that word might suggest. It says that we are doing something again, not creating something that hasn’t previously existed, but coming home, returning to something that already existed, but somehow got lost. Who knows? Maybe it’s a faith, a spirituality that had lots of energy, the joy of discovery, a first love. Maybe it has gone away, or gone flat. So we need to renew.

And what do we renew in Lent? It’s probably different for each one of us, but I’m guessing it begins with the notion of original blessing (preceding original sin). The thing that is being renewed is the awareness of the goodness of God’s creation in each one of us. In the first pages of the book of Genesis, the creator takes a gander at the human creation and say “This is very good.” Everything else God had made, moon, sun, water, earth, shark, rhinoceros, ferret was simply good. Humanity (a.k.a., you and me) was different. It was very good. I heard it stated by some preacher who didn’t let poor grammar stand in the way of proclamation of the gospel: God don’t make no junk.

The call to renewal, indeed the call to a holy Lent, says that we need to be brought back to that original blessing, that in fact we have gotten off course. Admittedly, that work is above and beyond us. It calls for grace. We all have some experience of being lost. We need to be found. We are called, invited, asked to cooperate in that process, to open ourselves to it. We pray as we did on Ash Wednesday: Renew in us a right spirit.

That ancient prayer from the psalmist, traditionally attributed to King David after he had royally screwed up (a few double entendres there if you didn’t catch them), notes that the renewal is not of his own doing. It is God’s work. For sure, in some mysterious way, we have been given the amazing (and scary) freedom to stand in the way of the renewing process. But when the renewing process happens, it is not because of our own spiritual magnificence. Rather, it is because God has been at work, doing creative work, characteristic of the divine energy. By some miracle, often in spite of ourselves, we have opened ourselves to it.

This Lent, where do you need to be renewed? What spiritual fatigue, inertia, ennui, stagnation, confusion, detour do you face? Pray with the psalmist a prayer for renewal. Open your heart to it.

– Jay Sidebotham

From Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a 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.

From Eucharistic Prayer C in the Book of Common Prayer:

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.