Imagine praying these words before you enter church? Praying through the three steps of: asking for God’s judgment, justifying yourself, and then being certain of your righteousness. A very risky exercise. I fear that I would be lost for words with the second and third steps, and hesitant to take the first. It brings to mind the sketch where someone starts praying the Lord’s prayer and the voice of God replies to each phrase challenging whether they understand what they are saying.
There is the tendency within us to hold fast to reassurance and look away, or apply to others, the challenge within Scripture. An obvious example being on a rainy Sunday the partial quotes of Matthew 5:45 of it raining on the righteous, to which I instinctively reply ‘and the unrighteous as well.’
It does no good for us to always concentrate on just the affirmations or only the judgments in Scripture. They are held in tension, full of paradox, and we will only ever partially comprehend them on this side of eternity. So with those caveats let me offer a retelling of Psalm 26:
As far as I know my own heart, I fear no reprimand from God. I have lived honourably, faithfully, and have always trusted in God. Show me the truth? Test my resolve, my desires and convictions.
I can sense your love all around me and I step out in faith seeking your path.
I turn away from anything that distracts me from you. Only you are worthy, true, wholesome and good. My whole life is devoted to you. Your Creation is all your holy place. My voice is raised giving thanks for life’s blessings and sharing stories of faith. I know your presence all around me and am lost in wonder, love and praise.
O God, May humility temper our certainty. May love embrace our dislike. May self-knowledge inform our pride.
May confidence lift up our doubts. May awareness broaden our focus. May mercy alleviate our guilt.
Amidst the tangles, loose ends, and tidy bows of life, may we hear your voice O God within it all and respond in love. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.