Academic journal article Currents in Theology and Mission

Ash Wednesday: March 1, 2006

Academic journal article Currents in Theology and Mission

Ash Wednesday: March 1, 2006

Article excerpt

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Cupped Ear/Psalm Sounds

Psalm 51 is heard against the somber sounds of the Ash Wednesday service and the scraping of ashes on foreheads. With a cupped ear, we listen for psalm sounds:

Psalm 51 begins with a focus on the character of God. Three key Hebrew words ring out the word grace: mercy or gracious, steadfast love, and compassion. God's steadfast love is a tolling bell that rings throughout the biblical land. It was heard in the ear of the prophet Hosea through his faithful marriage to his unfaithful wife Gomer (Hosea 1-3). It was heard in the voice of a loving parent (God) spoken to his rebellious child Israel (Hosea 11). God's steadfast love sounded through the mountain cloud and filled the ears of Moses at Sinai as steadfast love was being written on stone tablets. The "grace notes" of God always precede any sounds of sin.

The sound of sin echoes through three words. "Transgressions" (v. 1) suggests the sounds of a rebellious child (Isa 1:2). "Iniquity" groans with the pressure of being twisted (Isa 24:1) or bent down (Ps 38:6). "Sin" (vv. 2, 3, 4, 9) fills the ear with the windy noise of arrows missing their targets. Sin is the sound of missing the mark.

Balancing the sin-filled noise of rebellion, groaning, and missing are sounds of forgiveness. …

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