Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. – Psalm 51:14 (NRSV)
It’s interesting to think of oneself as a deliverable. “Deliver me, O God!” is a prayer for use in quicksand. It’s a sentence that smacks of desperation, a line for praying with sirens and alarms wailing in the background. It’s biblical, churchy.
Deliverables, on the other hand, are board-roomish, law-officey. There’s an air of orderliness and contractuality about them. Also a bit of a threat: if the deliverables aren’t delivered—and on time—there will be consequences. And if God’s to be trusted, a deliverable is just what you are.
You and I have both begged God for deliverance from some muddle or another, more than once. In one sense, that’s what Ash Wednesday is all about: “God, I’ve really screwed up. Forgive me, and get me out of this mess.”
In a related sense, it’s about remembering that God’s made a number of contracts with humankind over the years, to deliver us from all manner of things from annihilation to our own sins. There may not be much humanity can do to force God to honor those covenants, but she seems committed to doing it anyway.
So today when you get those ashes smeared on your forehead, receive them as a sign of your repentance, yes, and as a sign of your fragility in the face of quicksand and emergency and your own worst impulses. But also receive them as the seal of God’s enduring commitment to deliver the goods safely, in a timely manner and acceptable condition.
Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.