Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | February 22, 2012

Sermon on Psalm 6 (Ash Wednesday)

Thank You, Lord, may I have another?

  • Order of Service:  Divine Service II, CWS, pg28
  • Lessons:  Isaiah 59:12-20, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2, Luke 18:9-14
  • Hymns: 302, 125:1-2, 534, 738

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

 Psalm 6:  For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David. O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.  Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.  All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.

Grief, pain, anguish, and terror are good things.  They distinguish the justified tax collector from the damned Pharisee.  They distinguish repentance from the hardened heart.

 David suffered grief, pain, anguish, and terror.  He cried out: I am faint!  My bones are in agony!  My soul is in anguish!  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.  My eyes grow weak with sorrow (Psalm 6:2-3a, 6-7a, NIV84).  That David had his mind on more than just the vicissitudes of life he proves by saying, O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1, NIV84).  Something David did caused him to fear the LORD’s anger.  He filled his nights with weeping, His eyes aged (we’d say, “My hair’s turning grey!”), His body and soul ached – because he knew that he’d offended the LORD.  And because of his offense he suffered grief, pain, anguish, and terror.

 The Church has a technical term for this:  contrition.  You may not use that word often, but you’ve sung it:  With broken heart and contrite sigh, a trembling sinner, Lord, I cry (Christian Worship, 303:1).  You also recited it to a pastor at some point when you learned about Baptism:  It means that our Old Adam with his evil deeds and desires should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and die… (Small Catechism, Baptism, IV).  We define contrition as grieving, and more than that, as David says, it’s fear and terror and sadness.  But it’s not just being sad about something you said or did.  Most normal humans – believers or not – can gin up some level of guilt or sadness, fear and terror.  Paul says to the Corinthians:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  See what this godly sorrow has produced in you:  what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done (2 Corinthians 7:10-11, NIV84).

 Worldly sorrow, worldly contrition, thinks like the Pharisee.  It thinks about evening the score, about balancing the scales, about saving a reputation or building a reputation.  In the end it says, I thank you that I’m not like other men (Luke 18:11, NIV84).  Too often worldly sorrow isn’t all that sorry in the first place.  “I’m sorry if I offended you,” or, “I’m sorry, but really it’s your fault because….”  Godly sorrow crouches before God and can’t muster a glance in His direction, because it knows that what’s coming is earned.  Godly sorrow begs only that God cool off first:  Do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1, NIV84).

And more than that, worldly sorrow resents what follows contrition:  the rebuke and the discipline.  Doesn’t this explain why we’re so afraid of confrontation and why we so rarely confront those who need rebuke and discipline?  Proverbs says, Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you (Proverbs 9:7-8, NIV84).  By nature we hate rebuke and correction.  By nature when parents, or spouses, or pastors, or teachers, or governments, or worse yet, God comes to us with rebuke or discipline and dares to say, “You’re wrong,” we respond with insults, with abuse, with hatred.  “I can’t believe he said that.”  “The nerve of that guy.”  “I’m not voting for him.”  “Fine, then I’m moving out.”  “Take your Bible and shove it.”

 And yet, listen to David.  He doesn’t say, “Take your rebuke and shove it!”  He says, “Please just don’t rebuke me in anger.”  We get that.  It’s a common piece of advice that we should count to 10, at least, before responding when we’re angry, right?  And we don’t have the ability to strike someone dead at a moment’s notice, scatter a people by confusing their languages, or send a world-destroying flood.  God does.  And we’ve seen Him do it; we’ve heard Him say, Unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:5, NIV84).

 The Pharisee with his worldly sorrow hears that and cringes, not in fear, but in offense.  “Are you serious?  That’s not a loving God?  And I’m not really that bad!  There are far worse people than me in this world!  Smite them!”  But the tax collector with his godly sorrow says, “You’re right, LORD.  You are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:4, NIV84). Because by faith he understands that contrition comes from the LORD; and it’s a good thing.  It is good to be rebuked and disciplined.  It is good to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and shaken, because it’s not death, even though death has been earned. Turn, deliver, and save, David cries out (Psalm 6:4, NIV84), because he needs the LORD to do those very things.  In another psalm we’ll ponder this Lenten season David speaks famously, Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin….  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:2, 5, NIV84).  And he knows this because of the grief, fear, anguish, and terror he suffers.  Paul said that to the Corinthians too:  Anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 11:29-30, NIV84).  The enemies of the Word, the unbelievers, the Pharisees, gloat when believers suffer because of their sins.  They see it as evidence that there is no God, or that God is capricious, tyrannical, or mean-spirited – not a God worth having.  But believers see suffering, pain, grief, and anguish – contrition – as evidence of God:  God punishing weakness and sin.  Those verses from Corinthians a moment ago are famous and discussed often, less often heard are the words Paul wrote moments later:  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32, NIV84).

 God sends us fear and terror, God drives us to contrition, to drive us to our knees, with the tax collector and the prodigal son.  He empties us of ourselves so that He can fill us up with Himself.  He forces us to understand the depths of our sin, so that we might understand the depths of His salvation.  Listen to David:  Be merciful to me, LORD…O LORD, heal me….  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love (Psalm 6:2-4, NIV84).  Notice David’s words, the words of the tax collector, God, have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13, NIV84):  BECAUSE OF YOUR UNFAILING LOVE.  David does not appeal to his faintness, his agony, his anguish, or his tears.  He appeals only to the unfailing love and mercy of the LORD.  He knows that the faintness, the agony, the anguish, and the tears aren’t to his credit; they are because of his sins.  Just as the tax collector knows that he can’t look to heaven, that he must beat his breast, that he must stand off to the side in a corner, not because all these things will appease God, but because this is who he is, because of his sins.  Because of our sins.  And all we have to cling to is the unfailing love of God:  “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And our tears are met with God’s own.  God pours out His tears into baptismal fonts the world around and saves us through the washing of rebirth and renewal.  He saves us not because of righteous things we have done, because of His mercy.  David – and we – cry out, “Save us” – Hosanna in the Hebrew – but even more literally, “Jesus me!”  And God does!  He turned to us.  He delivered us.  He saved us.  He called us to be reconciled to Him who reconciled us to Himself:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, 21, NIV84).  As you learned in catechism:  God graciously forgives our sins and grants us rebirth and new life through the Holy Spirit (Small Catechism, Baptism, III).  Or, as David put it:  The LORD has heard my weeping.  The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayers (Psalm 6:8-9, NIV84).  I know that because I hear Jesus and I see Jesus.  And in clinging to Christ, in clinging to what He accomplished in His life by living without earning God’s rebuke, and by dying with my rebuke-worthy sins upon Himself, in clinging to His declaration that “It is finished,” in clinging to the declared verdict of innocence shouted from an empty tomb, in clinging to that we can say, “Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for another dose of contrition.  Thank You for another dose of your unfailing love.  Thank You, Lord – may I have another?”  Amen.

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