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"Always, We Begin Again" -- Psalm 51 (Ash Wednesday)

The Benedictines have a saying that’s become part of the rhythm of their lives: “Always, we begin again.”[1] As Benedictines live their life in community – either together in one place or out in the world – they structure their common life around what’s called the Rule of St. Benedict.[2] The Rule of St Benedict offers guidelines for living, but, importantly, it also builds a structure for each day – a pattern, for moving through each day, and then the next:

Each morning, they wake – and move into prayer – and then out into their work. And then they return to prayer, they give thanks – and then back into work – and then back into prayer – work flowing into prayer – and prayer into work. Along the way, they share meals together, and conversation – living the rhythm of each day with each other, and in the presence of God. And at the close of the day and at the beginning of the next, there is this prayer:

“Always, we begin again.

And that’s a blessing because we know that each day brings with it its own challenges and joys, and every now and then we need to begin again. We do our best to live lives of meaning – and along the way – each day – from time to time – we also get it wrong – sometimes badly wrong. We harm others, and ourselves. We participate in the things of the world that keep harm going, rolling over lives – the things that keep folks down.

And, as we move through each day, we experience the full range of what human life encounters. Hopefully, we find some joy – along with the frustration, and the worry, and the sense of overwhelm. And, in a world, where we are all moving through, getting things wrong – we know what is like to be on the blunt edge of that – the receiving side of the world’s harm – we know what it is like to hurt.

So after a full day like that – every day – the Benedictines pray this assurance and this hope:

“Always, we begin again.

Now, that’s not just a true statement about chronological time. It is true: Every day we begin again, with the rising of the sun. It’s also a true statement about God’s love for us. In Jesus Christ, God has come to us in to heal and to save us from everything that does us harm – and from all the harm that we do. God has come to us in Jesus Christ

· with forgiveness, for our sin and our brokenness;

· with freedom, for all the ways that we are oppressed – and for all the ways that we oppress others; and

· with healing, for all the ways we hurt – and for all the ways we harm each other.

It’s like we’ve been saying in worship in our Assurance of Grace – “Every day is a brand new day.” In God’s grace, God gives us a fresh clean start. “Always, we begin again.”