Like everyone, preachers make mistakes, mess up, screw up and even commit a few grievous sins. Just ask my daughter, Lisa. She will happily provide a list. Since I’m going to confess just one of my many sins, I thought it might be appropriate to also provide comfort from Scripture.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)
For months, I promised to put up a basketball goal behind our house. So, one windy, afternoon, under my daughter’s watchful eye, I began assembling the various pieces. The directions said: first, dig a hole, then, attach the goal to the pole and finally place the entire assembly into the hole. “Sounds simple enough,” I thought.
Everything was going as planned. The hole was dug. The assembly was attached. All I needed to do was pick up the basketball goal and place it into the hole.
Did I mention that it was extremely windy?
Just as I stood the pole upright, the wind literally ripped the entire assembly out of my hands, carrying everything several yards before crashing to the ground and smashing the backboard into several pieces.
For I recognize my shameful deeds – they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. (51.3-4)
My pastoral dignity was completely forgotten as the curses began to flow. Fortunately, we lived in an isolated area and only one person heard me! Unfortunately, that one person was my daughter and I was about to learn a hard lesson.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. (51:4 & 6)
Not much was said until Sunday. During worship, I asked for prayer requests in the congregation. I sensed trouble when I noticed several youth giggling on the back row. Then my daughter raised her hand and announced in a loud voice:
“I would like the church to pray for my Dad and his temper!” she said with a sly smile.
What could I say? I was caught foul mouthed and red-handed. I had to tell the church how their pastor blew it. After my confession, we were able to laugh together and feel better about our relationship with God, recognizing we are human and constantly in need of forgiveness.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Oh give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice. (v. 7-8)
We all make mistakes. That is part of being human. As followers of God we humbly ask for forgiveness for our sins and we also work at learning how to forgive others.
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. (V. 9-10)
Everyone at times has the equivalent of basketball goals ripped out of their grasp:
• An employee loses his temper over a misunderstanding and insults a coworker.
• A wife feels betrayed over her husband’s crude comments in front of friends.
• A father angrily confronts and curses his son’s coach during practice.
In the heat of passion, tragic errors of judgment occur. The lesson of Psalm 51 is difficult but clear. God expects us to seek forgiveness when we do something wrong. God’s forgiveness removes the stain of sin and helps us feel better about ourselves and our relationship with God. With a clean heart, our spirit can be renewed.
Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. (V 13,17)