A Psalm of Asaph
The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
Today we reach the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the time when we begin the great six penitential weeks leading up Easter. Some people seem to think Lent is a bit like the equivalent of 'dry January', by giving up, say, chocolate. But it's far greater than this. Lent is the time we contemplate the state of our souls! So it's appropriate to look at Psalm 50 as we get ready to enter the six weeks that lead up to Easter.
Asaph, was the greatest singer and musician in David and Solomon's time, and was considered a prophet (1 Chronicles 16.5-7 and 2 Chronicles 29.3). Notice how he speaks with authority in the opening of Psalm 50. In the first five lines he gives God three titles in Hebrew, the last being that special name given to Moses when he made a covenant with God:
As the fanfare of trumpets announces God's names, we hear that He has called the whole world before him, to judge all the nations. But shockingly Yahweh first comes to judge His 'faithful ones', those who have made a covenant with Him (both Jews, and by extension we Christians, who have also made a covenant with Him at our baptism) - all are on trial before Him.
This is why we need a time of penitence and reflection starting with Ash Wednesday and continuing through Lent, and why we ask God to have mercy on us.
You have called us to be Your people,
and though we responded to Your call
we have frequently ignored and disappointed You.
May we use today and the coming weeks
to reflect on our relationship with You
and on the state of our spiritual health.
Forgive us our frailty -
of those sins that are habitual,
and those we seem unable to give up.
Help us to use the weeks of Lent
to deepen our faith in You
and so come to a joyful Eastertide.