Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, February 21

O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy; With him there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
—Psalm 130: 6-7

Lent is almost upon us. This forty-day season is, for Christians, a time to do at least two things: first, to use one of our most precious commodities—TIME—to develop a closer relationship with God. The second thing we are to do in Lent is to "examine our consciences" and then make some changes. The religious word for this is repentance, but I hesitate to use it because I am aware that to many people it is distasteful.

For some reason I have talked a lot about sin lately, in sermons, in Bible study classes and even, wonder of wonders, in conversations. People don’t like it! "I've never understood sin," one friend said.  Another said, "I really don't enjoy reading about it, much less talking about it!"

For centuries, people have tried to define sin. Two definitions I like are:

  1. anything that separates us from God, and
  2. missing the mark, as in shooting an arrow and trying to hit the center but "missing the mark." Some misses are greater than others, and no one hits the mark all the time.

One of the finest expositions of sin is contained in the powerful Litany of Penance, found in The Book of Common Prayer. It is comprehensive, and if you can read it without wincing at least once, you are unique. Here is just one fragment: "We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives."

The whole Litany is the best Lenten prayer I know. When one reads the Litany every day of Lent, one will not be the same at Lent's end.

Confession and confrontation of our failings are not ends in themselves. There is always forgiveness. As this psalmist seems to know from experience, with God there is "plenteous redemption."

Dear God, help us to be less afraid of our shortcomings. Give us grace to confess them and the strength to change them. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.