by Dr. Barbara Geistfeld, D.V.M., LFL Regional Director of Texas
Psalm 51:10-12 is a familiar and beloved King James text found in the old Lutheran Hymnal—known to many of you as the Offertory. (I love to sing it from the 1941 edition, specifically my husband Jim’s confirmation hymnal, which has his name and the year 1961 embossed in gold on the front cover!)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
Now, we always end here and move on to the offering. But wait! Verse 13, which we do not sing, nor even mention, summarizes the whole point of this text: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee’’ or as stated in the ESV, “… and sinners will return to you.”
“Then I will teach ….” That personal pronoun “I” identifies each one of us who reads that text as the person who will teach transgressors God’s ways so that they will return to the Lord! Scary! Humbling! The whole point of God creating a clean heart and a right spirit within us is so we may be cleansed and strengthened to go out and do the job He created us to do—to teach others His ways so they can return to Him.
This should come as no surprise, of course, as another favorite text that we Lutherans are very fond of quoting is Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV): “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
“This is most certainly true,” Dr. Martin Luther would say, but, here again, we often beam with joy at the gift and slide off into the day without hearing the especially important words that follow. Verse 10 clearly states the sole purpose of this amazing gift from God: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
It is so easy to hold tight to our personal salvation and our personal gift of forgiveness and forget why we are holding it. It is so easy to forget that we are born with a to-do list. It is so easy to be thankful for this forgiveness and forget that we are to be the lights in a dark world and the salt of the earth. We can barely comprehend the truth that, as believers in Jesus, “streams of living water will flow from within [us]” (John 7:38 NIV). What an incredible gift we have been given!
As we daily give thanks for this great gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins, let us ask God to remind us often that this gift is given to us to share. We have words that can help others. We can act in a manner that shows others the truth of a Spirit-filled life. As Lutherans, we have a rich liturgy that expresses our faith. Let us go out and live this liturgy to the fullest so that others may see the truth and return to the Lord.