Is not this the fast that I choose?

posted on March 18, 2018


Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Psalm 51: 1-12 -- NRSV

Recently I visited several inmates on Nebraska’s Death Row. On the drive home I recalled the first time I met them. I was with a group who go several times a year, and we met with five of the inmates in a conference room in the visiting area. We bought sandwiches and sodas from the vending machines, and we sat around the tables eating and talking.

At one point, I looked at the man on my left, the man on my right and the men across the table – all convicted of murder. I realized they weren’t really that much different from me.

Yes, their lives have been very different from mine. They committed crimes, were convicted and are in prison. Some of them admit what they have done and are deeply remorseful; others claim they are innocent. Some have committed their lives to Christ, and study the Bible and pray, and have found peace; others don’t care one whit about God and seem to me to be angry and resentful.

But as I looked at them around that table, I had the overwhelming realization that, even with the terrible things they have done, they are human beings – just as human as I am.

In my latest visit, we talked, we laughed, we read the Bible, we prayed. I thought of Psalm 51: “Have mercy, … blot out my transgressions, …wash me. I know my transgressions...” Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

God, help me see myself and others as you see, then help me be who you see.
Take time to visit with someone you might not otherwise spend time with.
Rev. Stephen Griffith is the South Central Jurisdictional Representative to the MFSA Board of Directors. He is a retired elder from the Great Plains Annual Conference living in Lincoln, Nebraska


Stephen Griffith