"The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17
The ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of our mortality; the one prerequisite for resurrection is death, something we will all face in time.
But literal death is not all there is to death. Throughout the New Testament "death" is not merely the cessation of mortal life, but also a power that insinuates itself into the living of our days.
Lent is the season that invites us to consider the spaces and places in our lives that are dead. To ask ourselves: where has this "power of death" touched us? What is dead in our relationships, in our church, in our society? What is dead within us, where we once had life?
This kind of scrutiny is never easy. It is painful to acknowledge death and the denial of death is strong within us.
To see the dead places within and without us can break our hearts. But our text today says that this very condition of heartbrokenness is a sacrifice acceptable to God.
Because once we open our eyes to the ways the power of death has hold over us, and feel sorrow and remorse (which is what contrition means) God meets us there and can begin to ready us for the promised new life.
Accept our broken spirits and contrite hearts, O God, as an acceptable offering to you, and take away the power of death from our lives.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.