1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
“Oh, he was a wild ‘un,” said the old widow in my father’s parish. She was talking about a man whom I knew as an officer of the congregation, a stalwart and even somewhat dour conservative fellow. He was a pillar of that community. My father regularly leaned upon this man in his ministry in that place. It turns out that he had not always been such a respectable fellow. There had been a period of rebellion in his youth, some wild days. He had liked fast cars and drank too much. This eventually resulted in a run-in with the sheriff. There had been a night spent in the county jail. It was a long time ago.
The psalmist exhorts God to remember his mercy and not the sins of our youth. Rather, he asks God to remember him according to his steadfast love and for the sake of God’s goodness. What thoughts ran through this man’s head when these words were repeated in church? He did not tell me. What thoughts run through your head? What memories do not die in your recollecting? What sins and transgressions cling tightly to you?
The Lord is good and upright. In another place it says he forgets our sins, putting them as far away as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). This man I saw in my own youth in my father’s parish doesn’t seem quite so old anymore. I think he was about my age right now when I heard the widow’s words. Anyone who has lived more than a few decades looks back on parts of life with a measure of regret and sorrow. Our minds cannot let go. But God works differently from us. He remembers his love and, because of Christ, forgets our sins.
This Sunday I will commune with that old man. I am sure he is glory now as one day I shall be too. He is not there because he got his life right, but because Jesus got forgiveness right. He was there when I saw him, leading his parish and serving Christ in this life, because Jesus called him and you and me to lives of service and love and gave us all the privilege of being part of a kingdom which we do not deserve. His favor and blessing are refreshed with every absolution.