A Collect for the Day: The Friday after the second Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Song of Entreaty

Lord Jesus, think on me,
and purge away my sin;
from earthborn passions set me free,
and make me pure within.

Lord Jesus, think on me
with many a care opprest;
let me thy loving servant be,
and taste thy promised rest.

Lord Jesus, think on me,
nor let me go astray;
through darkness and perplexity
point thou the heavenly way.

Lord Jesus, think on me,
that, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see,
and share thy joy at last.

— George the Sinner, tr: A.W. Chatfield

Family is Messy

Have you ever had a pile of laundry on a hallway, bedroom, or bathroom floor? You know, for days?

Actually, I once took a picture of our twin sons when they were three or four and had fallen asleep on a pile of dirty laundry at the end of the hall in our previous home. True story.

What about several spots in need of dusting? I know, for instance, that our family is quite adept at cultivating the ideal environment for daddy long-legs. (Honestly, it’s like they emerge ex nihilo). We aspire to dust, but our actions don’t often reach our aspirations.

Or what about stacks of books that you can’t fit on the bookcase? I mean, seriously, you don’t get rid of books just because you’ve gotten a few more. Right? Please tell me I can keep my books.

Maybe for you dishes are left soaking too long in a sink of tepid water. A rarity for us, thanks to a dishwasher given to us as a gift years ago. If it stops working, there might be weeping and gnashing of teeth. I could very well end up anointing myself with ashes.

Clutter is certainly an issue in our house. Stuff we shift from one location to another without really cleaning up. My wife has actually been listening to e-books on minimalism. Notice I said e-books.

Maybe most frustrating, once you’ve cleaned up, it’s usually not long before you’re busy at the same tasks again. It’s like the instructions on a shampoo bottle: rinse, repeat.

Home life is messy.

Our home life is messy because there are five of us (plus two dogs!) sharing a home, using bathrooms, going through clothes, pilfering from the fridge, not putting stuff away, avoiding using the broom, WetJet, and mop as much as humanly possible, and adding to the wear and tear of the house we live in.

Homes are messy usually because people are messy. Families are messy. Life is messy.

Left to myself, my living environment would probably be much neater, straightened out, and orderly. But frankly I’ve had to let go of some of that tendency for the sake of sanity. Only if I were single and childless would there be much hope in my having a picture perfect home.

(Though if my Mom were still alive, she might have cause to disagree since she knew what my room was like as a teenager.)

But you know what? It’s in the mess of our family life that we celebrate a weekly Sabbath, pray for one another, say sorry for a word unkindly spoken, sit around reading together when there’s cleaning to do, play silly board games, tell bad jokes, help one another, do homework, and, occasionally, work on putting laundry away together.

As aggravating as life with family can sometimes be, more often our relationships with one another are deep wells of grace. And since life in this world can leave me quite thirsty, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Not even if it meant having a perfectly clean house.

Praying for Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a funny thing.

You see, as Christians we believe that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he willingly bore the sins of the entire world—past, present, future. Transposing this into a more personal key, Christ’s gift of reconciliation covers every inch of my wrongdoing and brokenness. Nothing remains unforgiven. No wound untouched by his healing power. Everything I’ve done and will do that violates God’s will for my life completely covered.

And so when I came to faith in Christ, in that moment the Holy Spirit immediately applied this forgiveness to all of my sins. No exceptions. Not a one.

In other words, I have been forgiven. Past tense. Done.

It’s beautiful, actually. And profound beyond measure.

But it makes me ask a question, one that may sound silly but can actually lead us to a deeper appreciation and understanding of forgiveness.

Why do we need to continue asking for forgiveness? Hasn’t Christ already forgiven all my sin? Does asking for his forgiveness imply that he didn’t forgive me for everything already? Was his earlier forgiveness not sufficient?

So I think of it this way. When I sin today, the reason I confess and repent is that I need to appropriate (or make use of) the forgiveness already given. It’s not that Jesus needs to forgive me all over again; rather, I need to return to the one who has forgiven me. It’s not so that I can have Jesus forgive my newly committed sin, but so my current sin doesn’t continue as an obstacle to the relationship I have with him.

Put another way, my need for confession and forgiveness is relational, not transactional.

Or consider it this way. If Jesus had to forgive me again and again for each individual sin for me to be forgiven, what about sin I commit that I am not aware of? Because we are not consciously aware of all the ways we fail to love God and others. His forgiveness—the grace he extends from the cross—takes care of all that too.

But when we are aware of ways in which we have broken God’s commands, we confess not to elicit God’s forgiveness but to willingly and humbly receive it.

We pray for forgiveness, in other words, not to change God’s mind but to transform ours. It’s one of the key ways we invite Christ to continue renovating our hearts. And doing so also reminds us again and again of the gospel, at the heart of which is a Saviour who loves us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his life so we could enjoy the forgiveness he longs for us to know.