My cousins and I found much joy in playing in the mud when we were younger. We slathered our skin from head to toe with this smooth yet bumpy texture. We encountered every kind of meeting with mud you can imagine–from mudslides in creek adventures to fixing water pipes. We’ve done it all. And we didn’t mind getting dirty. No permanent marks, no worries, just a simple hose-down, and we were good to go.
When it comes to sin, there is nothing clean about it. It is forever a part of us as it infects our entire being with its dirt and grime. We think that we can scrape it off by ourselves, yet we despair with no avail. We are reminded during the Lenten season, beginning with Ash Wednesday, that to dust we are and to dust we shall return. We are essentially made of the dust of the ground because of the Fall into Sin. We wallow in it day and night, crawling from the depths of woe and crying with a penitential fervor, “Create in me a clean heart, O God! O Lord, have mercy upon me!”
Our journey this Lenten season is a journey through the mud of our sin, but it is one in which Jesus steps into the mud to take our filthy heart and all its sin upon Himself on the cross. We continue to live in this daily sin with cries for release, but as those who are redeemed we look to the cross and hear God’s Gospel that says, “I baptize you for the forgiveness of sins,” “I forgive you all your sins,” and “My Body and Blood given to you for the forgiveness of sins,” all in the triune name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For you. In the thick of suffering. In the midst of sin. All Jesus. All His work. All your salvation. For you.
Luther once said, “Every time you wash your hands, remember your Baptism.” Every dust of sin is a part of us, but in Christ it is washed away. In Christ we are a new creation, and in Christ we return to His promises by faith. We all like sheep have gone astray and are covered in the murkiness of sin, but Christ has covered Himself with our iniquities and has given us a clean heart and a right spirit within Him.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
And take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation,
And uphold with thy free spirit.
Bethany Woelmer is a member at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kansas and a graduate student in church music at the University of Kansas.