This morning I saw something which refreshed my heart and filled me with hope. I had seen this particular sight countless times–literally. I cannot begin to count how many times I have seen this sight. This morning, as I started to pray the office of Morning Prayer, the Psalm readings for the day began with verse 1 of Psalm 1.
Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
It’s not my favorite verse, nor even my favorite Psalm, but I am relieved and refreshed every time I read Psalm 1 in the Daily Office. It means that we are doing something that is incredibly important and thoroughly Christian: we are starting over.
The Daily Office is ancient means of praying and reading Holy Scripture which, in the form that I use, cycles through the entire Book of Psalms every seven weeks, as well as the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament at different intervals throughout a two-year cycle. It may come as a shock to some, but I do not always manage to pray the Daily Office like I am suppose to. Generally, I pray Morning Prayer when I get up in the morning and Evening Prayer before I leave the church office and head home, but sometimes stuff happens. Occasionally, important ministry opportunities interrupt and I am praying with someone in crisis, but at other times I have really bad reasons like… I just don’t want to. Sometimes I feel guilty about missing my prayer time and the readings that go with it. That is why I love it when I see Psalm 1 in the Daily Office readings. It’s the time to start over!
In the 3rd chapter of the Book of Lamentations, we hear that the mercies of The LORD are new every morning and that His compassions never fail. I know that I need that and love being reminded that today, this morning, here is an opportunity to start over and do it again better. God gives each of us that opportunity and it’s more than just checking off boxes when saying our prayers. Sometimes we really mess up. Sometimes we spend years of our lives living in sin and leaving a path of destruction and broken lives behind us as wide as any hurricane. Sometimes our actions our deliberate, intentional, thought out, and even evil. Nevertheless, God’s mercies are still there for us whatever morning we realize depth of our wrong, repent and turn to Him. His compassions have always been there for us. God love the world so much that while we were yet sinners God sent His Son to die for us. (Romans 5:8)
This is what our 21st century secular world completely fails to realize. Perhaps it stubbornly refuses to admit the possibility that people can be forgiven and change because it means that they would have to channel their anger elsewhere. Every Sunday I stand in front of the Altar of God and administer the Body and Blood of Christ to fallen and broken sinners like myself who have been redeemed and washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb. I remind myself that none of us are judged by the worst thing we have ever done but by the righteousness of Christ Jesus. I hope that, if I am ever judged by society, it will be long after I am dead and for the sum total of my life’s contribution, not for a single tweet or a series of mistakes. Today too many seem all too keen to make a judgement and condemn someone so that they are permanently removed from society’s dialogues. In some cases this manifests in “cancel culture,” in others it’s through the tearing down of statues, in others it’s through the changing of the history and literature books. As Christians, we must reject this.
We know that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory. (Romans 3:23) We know that David was an adulterer who doomed the husband of his mistress to death. We know that St. Peter denied knowing Our Lord three time. We know that St. Paul hunted down and murdered Christians for their faith. Knowing all this, we acknowledge that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and that Saints Peter and Paul were the pillars upon which Our Lord built His Church. We, too, are not limited by our mistakes but empowered by the redemptive glory of the God who raised the dead and overcame Death and the Grave. If He could accomplish all that, He can overcome all of your sins and make a saint out of even me or you.
This morning, as I began the office of Morning Prayer and read the first verse of Psalm 1, I remembered God’s mercies again and again. May God give each of us the grace to start over and the grace to allow others to do the same.