Psalms for Passiontide: Passion Sunday: Psalm 51.1-13

A poem full of washing images seems utterly appropriate at this time of pandemic when I am so aware that where some are bored, others are paralysed by anxiety; when some are taking opportunities to get to grips with new technologies, others are pressured to the point of seeming breaking by the demands of being an NHS worker or carer, a logistics manager or food deliverer, a scientist or a farmer.

I am more fortunate than many, and in a multitude of ways, but particularly because the habits of self-isolation and solitude at home are not unusual to me.  I know how to spend time in silence, making space to ponder and pray slowly.  I know how to listen to the overwhelming fears of my noisy mind, making space to notice and see an opportunity to practice self-compassion.  I know how to look out of the window, making space to daydream paintings, patchwork, photographs, and poems into being.

I know how to be.  And yet, too many times a day to count, I don’t practice what I know.

You desire truth in the inward being;

therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

(Psalm 51.6 NRSV)

The opportunities of this strange time for the world ‘out there’, as well as for my ‘inward being’ ‘in here’, means that the centuries-old themes of this Passiontide Psalm are tuned exquisitely to my present circumstances:

create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a steadfast spirit within me…

restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a generous spirit.

(Psalm 51.10, 12 NRSV)

Teach. Create. Restore. Sustain.

I long to be clean, joyous and generous.

By Your Grace, Spirit, I pray these words from You so I can be in right relationship with my Source.

By Your Grace, Spirit, I pray these words from You so I can be in right relationship with my heart.

By Your Grace, Spirit, I pray these words from You so I can be in right relationship with my community.

Come, Holy One, ’shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life’:

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

    Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

    set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes,

    give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me,

    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash,

    or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile,

    put a fresh wind in my sails!

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways

    so the lost can find their way home.

Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,

    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

Unbutton my lips, dear God;

    I’ll let loose with your praise.

(Psalm 51.6-15 The Message)

cleaning to create (bl)cleaning to create. Canon 7D. f20.1/60. ISO 3200.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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