Message of God’s redeeming love in Ash Wednesday Collect
The message of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ as contained in the Church of England’s Collect for Ash Wednesday is of supreme importance. Instead of pandering to political correctness, the Church of the nation needs to proclaim this transcendent message lovingly, boldly and unequivocally:
‘Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
This Collect is suffused with the spirituality of Psalm 51, which King David wrote after the prophet Nathan confronted him with the evil of his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her warrior husband, Uriah the Hittite – ‘Thou art the man’ (2 Samuel 12v7 – Authorised Version).
Imagine the British Prime Minister were to commit adultery with the wife of a distinguished SAS soldier and then slimily arrange for the war hero to be killed in action against the Islamic State. That approximates to the appalling abuse of power of which David was guilty.
Overwhelmed with penitence at the depravity of his actions, David prayed: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me’ (v10).
And: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise’ (v17).
The Collect recognises that the forgiveness David craved comes ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’. Perfect remission and forgiveness from the God of all mercy is only possible because the divine Christ, whom David looked forward to, took the just punishment that human sin deserves in His own body on the Cross.
People in a society in which evil is on the rampage, whether through the devastating impact of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, tacitly permitted drug abuse and state-sponsored sexual promiscuity or the more respectable sins of the materialist, careerist or celebrity worshipper, desperately need this message. Without it, we all face the eternal judgement of the living God into whose hands, the New Testament tells us, ‘it is a fearful thing to fall’ (Hebrews 10v31).
The Ash Wednesday Collect dares to tell us that God hates nothing that He has made. This means that anyone, whatever they have done, from the sex criminal to the drug abuser to the smug careerist, who worthily laments their sins and acknowledges their wickedness, can obtain from the God of all mercy perfect remission and forgiveness – through Jesus Christ our Lord.