By: Jarrod Johnston
I’m a nerd for the church year. It’s true. One of my favorite parts of my job is the planning of our worship services, year round. I especially get jazzed for the seasons, the anticipation of Advent, the Joy of the big days of Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Easter, and even the repentance theme of Lent. Of all these seasons and special days, I truly feel like I wait for Ash Wednesday every year. It’s on Ash Wednesday where we are told of our need to repent, but also where we can find a holy renewal.
I’ve always been drawn to the words of Psalm 51, one of our lectionary texts for Ash Wednesday, specifically verses 10 to 13:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore unto me, the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
We lump a lot of life change into the term “young adult”. We supposedly range from 18 to 35 years of age. It’s a long list of life changes that occur during these 17 years, and I’ve hit nearly all of them. College. Grad school. Career starting. Getting engaged. Getting married. Having children. Moving a lot. How is it that that all happened in twelve years? I’m only thirty. But as I’ve taken stock of my life I know that along the way, even with a career in ministry, it’s often very hard to make room for God’s will in my life.
That’s where Ash Wednesday and Psalm 51 come into play for me. It sets upon my heart a goal to strive for - a need for constant renewal. And I need to pray for that renewal constantly.
I know that there are people in our churches that don’t see the point; they don’t need new hearts, the one they have is just fine. But God is constantly calling us to rise up new in an ever changing world. The words from Psalm 51 are a challenge, but are also words of comfort in the face of difficult times. We often treat the seasons of the year as a set aside time to focus on those themes, but the reason we come around to Lent and repentance every year is so that we don’t forget what the Lord calls us to everyday.
So I invite you to ask yourself (as I do), here in the middle of July, how is my new heart right now? Did I set the renewal aside until next year? Or am I working on it still? Because as the psalmist prays, not only will the Lord give you the new heart you need, the Lord will help you sustain it.
Discussion Question: Are you working on your new heart this summer?