Dear King’s Cross Family and Friends,
As a budding 12 year old boy in Howard Beach, my sister used to buy 45’s; yes, we would play it with the adaptor (If you don’t know what a 45 is, here is a link to it). One of the 45’s that I remember the most was this song that still rings in my memory is Chicago’s “Hard For Me to Say I’m Sorry” (I am humming it now as I write this…sigh). The chorus was:
Hold me now
It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry
I just want you to stay
And after all that you’ve been through
I will make it up to you
I promise you, baby.
Hey, I didn’t say this was stuff of Shakespeare but for a 12 year old who didn’t even have an inclination of romance, this song resonated with me. Even at that age, I knew that “it’s hard for me to say sorry” I knew in my heart that I had to face with the things I have done wrong. I had friends who I let down with my fickle friendship, parents whom I constantly let down; and most of all to myself who I have made naive promises to be “better.”
This shadow of guilt is ever present and as we get older we still deal with this haunt in much more sophisticated ways. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is an incredible scene after Macbeth murders King Duncan to seize the throne for himself, in his moment of guilty torment he cries out:
Better be with the dead
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Macbeth has no peace by satisfying his ambitions. He experiences this life as a “fitful fever,” that is, a fever that comes in moments or “fits,” the heat of ambition alternating where one might experience “restless ecstasy” but soon there will be the reality of eventual turbulence broken by only by transient calms. The dead, Macbeth concludes, are truly at peace; murderers and the rest of the living suffer only uncertainty and agitation, as if life were a constant unceasing alternating of torture of mind, restless ecstasy and fitful fever. I think this is where most of us are if we are emotionally aware, we have faced moments when you have to say “I’m sorry” because of some realized guilt. Most of the time we regret those we hurt and an underlying sense of violating our own sense of righteousness that makes our offense to God a secondary consideration. We ignore Him.
This Sunday, we will look at probably one of the greatest passages in the Bible about guilt and how to deal with it. Psalm 51’s title is “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David, then Nathan the Prophet Went to Him, After He Had Gone in to Bathsheba.” Here in Psalm 51, we are faced with King David and a sin that was laced with adultery, treachery, abuse of authority and premeditated murder. This is not a children’s story but one with explicit details of such murderous evil. if you want know more you can read it in 2 Samuel 11-12. What is central to the Psalm is the heart of a man who is confronted with the truth of this statement:
“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”
Psalm 51 gives us a portrait of repentance in response to what is done that has “displeased the Lord.” We often looked down upon repentance as a concept in our culture. We see as a judgment on us and often when we pray, we are hindered because we don’t feel that we have the appropriate credentials so we feel shame and unease. Some of us come to God with no regard to our guilt and arrogantly come before God with levity towards sin which deny the offense to God. Here is where we have distorted our gospel orientation because we have failed to see the Grace of God as well as His Holiness as God confronts our extraordinary inclination towards sin.
This regular expression of Biblical repentance is something that is essential for gospel-centered living; it is becoming more aware of God’s holiness and our sinfulness that leads us to repent and cling to the gospel of Jesus that provides forgiveness, restoration and an invitation to intimacy.
This kind of repentance frees us from our own manufactured moral uprightness and makes a way for the weight of the gospel to bear fruit in our lives. But sin taints our repentance and robs us of its fruit. So our aim in today’s prayer is to expose the ways in which we practice counterfeit repentance and move us toward genuine repentance as expressed in Psalm 51.
In one of the closing scenes of Macbeth, he writes “It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.” It is an old saying that the dead will have their revenge. In the gospel, the blood is Christ’s blood and every one of our sins demanded justice but instead of our blood, Christ became our justice ;by not taking revenge against us with our blood but by giving of His. This is where we are moved to humility because we come before God we recognize that our apology is not a payment but rather it is a plea for mercy. David discovered this in this Psalm as he pleas for mercy.
This is why so many of us to react in surprise when sin surprise us: “I can’t believe I just did that!” In other words: “ it’s not what I’m really like!” So when we fall into self-centered remorse or “be better” resolution; this causes division between us and others as well. Because we think so highly of ourselves when others don’t measure up and we respond to others’ sin with harshness and disapproval. We are very lenient toward our own sin but we resent theirs! And because we think we can change ourselves, we are frustrated when other people aren’t changing themselves faster. We become judgmental, impatient, and critical. This also applies to us when we see others who manage their sins better than we do. We feel like a failure and we don’t want mercy but we want to show we are “right.” The gospel reminds us over and over again that we are recipients of grace and the only thing we can contribute to grace is our sin. Does that just wreck you? We have nothing to give but everything to receive. To receive abundantly.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
Prayer Prompt (From “The Worship Sourcebook”)
As we draw to the close of this year
and claim the year ahead, our Father,
we need to confess to you those pieces of the past
that persist in pulling us backward.
Through admitting our failures and sharing our sin,
we would like to put away those things
that nibble and nag, de-energize and depress.
With boldness, then, and a certain measure of embarrassment, we admit to squandering time and talent,
good intentions and better ideas,
opportunities for growth and occasions for grace.
We admit that we have most often taken care of ourselves while others have stood in line.
We have defined our interests carefully and our goals precisely, using energy and expertise gainfully
to the detriment of family, friends, community, and church
We agonize with memories that sit heavily
and images that cause us to blush
and ask that you would grant us your forgiveness
as we confess our individual regrets and remorse in silence. . . .
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
I hope that you will join us in prayer today at 1 pm and consider this truth. Also may we continue to gather together this Sunday in this invitation to corporate worship.
Remaining in Him,