As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 25th was “Clean.”
Growing up at my home congregation we used to sing a version of “Create in Me a Clean Heart O God,” after offering on non-communion Sundays. The majority of the time it was the version found in setting two of The Lutheran Book of Worship. As many Lutheran congregations have moved to having communion weekly now, this arrangement and response is sung far less frequently in worship. But the words of the text that form the basis of the message are singing my ear today.
From Psalm 51:
“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. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12, NRSV).
What does it mean to have a clean heart? It’s certainly not something we can make on our own. It’s something that only God can do in and through us. What that might look like I am sure would vary, but I suspect a clean heart would drive us out to serve in the promise of God’s presence with us.
From my work as a worship leader and music and worship director, I grew into loving one arrangement of this text more than others because of its flow, jazzy and gospel feel, and ease of incorporating rhythm. James Capers and Dennis Friesen-Carper’s work in the Liturgy of Joy is something that really makes worship meaningful and fun to me. Their version of the text goes like this:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
It’s not a hard translation but the melody that it is put to just draws you in. A quick search of YouTube and I found this nice video version of the arrangement from Christ Mertz Lutheran Church in Dryville, Pennsylvania to help give you a listen to the melody I am talking about.
When thinking about being clean in daily life, you might think of starting your day with a shower. I also think we are made clean through baptism, confession, reminders of baptism, in prayer, and in conversation and community. Though we might be able to physically clean ourselves in the shower, I doubt we can always clean ourselves in other ways. That’s where God comes in, and also we see the importance of relationships and community.
What do you think? How are you made clean?
Source: “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” James M. Capers, arr. Dennis Friesen-Carpter, Liturgy of Joy, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 185.