The Need to Apologize

Apologizing isn’t easy. Usually because we’ve done something we shouldn’t have–either intentionally or unintentionally–and caused someone else inconvenience or even pain, and now we need to face the person we wronged and try to say “sorry” for what we did. The guilt and the shame can feel paralyzing.

We can only hope they will forgive us – that’s up to them. But no matter how hard to do, we know that we need to apologize for our actions.

Psalm 51 is an apology written by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. It describes in sad detail the guilt and shame David felt as he approached God to apologize and repent. He begins by admitting to God and himself that what he did was wrong

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

And he begs God to forgive him and strengthen him…

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David speaks his sin and sorrow aloud to God, knowing there is nothing he can do by himself to make up for his sin. He can only offer his brokenness to God, and repent…

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

As theologian Ellsworth Kalas points out in Longing to Pray, “Ultimately, the need to repent is even greater than the need to be forgiven. Something in the soul says, ‘I want desperately for our relationship to be restored; but above all, I want you to know how sorry I am that I have violated our friendship. To forgive is yours; to repent is mine.’”

God forgives our sins. We must remember our responsibility to tell him how sorry we are for those sins, and how thankful we are to receive his forgiveness.

A Little Poetry

Not long after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s death in 1882, biographer Eric S. Robertson noted, “The ‘Psalm of Life,’ great poem or not, went straight to the hearts of the people, and found an echoing shout in their midst. From the American pulpits, right and left, preachers talked to the people about it, and it came to be sung as a hymn in churches.”

In 1850, Longfellow reportedly wrote in his journal how happy he was to hear that a minister had quoted his poem in a sermon, although he was disappointed that none of the congregants could identify the author!

Let’s read again (or maybe for the first time) this classic Victorian poem. You may even recognize a few of the more famous lines that have been lifted and used elsewhere over the years.

Enjoy.

Psalm 116

A psalm of gratitude and praise.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

Holy Exuberance!

From Longing to Pray by Ellsworth Kalas:

Israel built into its calendar occasions for exuberance. There were not only the annual feast days — all but one of which were celebratory — but every week there was the Sabbath. And the Sabbath was something to be celebrated…. Exuberance can’t be programmed or scheduled, but a schedule can provide a setting in which exuberance is more easily born or nurtured…. And it is the very essence of religious ritual. We easily decry “empty ritual”; the Old Testament prophets did so with vigor. But if the ritual is empty, that’s our fault. Rituals provide the magnificent setting in which the jewel of holy exuberance can shine. (Kalas 54-55, emphasis added)

Psalm 98, from The Message – An example of “holy exuberance” if there ever was one!

Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!

He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.

God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.

He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.

The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!

Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!

Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.

Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.

Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.

Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—

A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.

He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.

 

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

 

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Just Name The Place

Chapter 5 of Longing to Pray, by Ellsworth Kalas, is all about the places, schedules, and body language that provide the scaffolding from which we hang our friendships. We may meet a group of friends each month at a specific restaurant at a time certain, knowing that when we meet, everyone will lounge comfortably in his or her chair, slowly enjoying good food and even better friendships. We look forward to it, we aren’t in a hurry to leave, and we certainly aren’t thinking of other places or people. We settle in and enjoy the time we have together.

Right now, we aren’t able to make that lunch date. None of us. We’re trying as hard as we can to protect everyone we know (and even those we don’t) from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Just a couple of months ago, we had no idea that our usual get-togethers – be they lunches, church, or even boring work meetings – would be our last for a good long while.

And because we never really thought about them ending… well… we sort of took them for granted, didn’t we?  Once all this “social distancing” is over, I bet we don’t do that again for a very long time. But… we’ll still have to be on the lookout because we’re apt to forget how blessed we are all over again. We are human after all, eh?

Dr. Kalas asks us to think about all those places and times that we share with friends, and how those things add to our friendships – especially our friendship with God. Do we have a favorite place where we meet with God regularly? Do we “hang out” and pray leisurely? Or, are we checking our watch, making our grocery list, daydreaming between sporadic scripture reading?

Are we giving God the same considerations we would give to our dearest friend? When was the last time we had a leisurely lunch with God rather than merely firing off a quick “text-message prayer” to check in?

Dr. Kalas writes, “Since you and I are human creatures, our human circumstances affect even our spiritual moments—including especially the moments of friendship, both human and divine.” (p.48)

Remember: God is always available. It’s up to us to set the place, the time, and the pace.

Psalm 62:5-8

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.