Ash Wednesday Psalm Resource for Creation Justice

The Justice Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ has a Lenten resource called Journey into Hope, and has invited writers of their Worship Ways weekly resources to create companion materials. I curate the Living Psalms section which offers to worship leaders every week a justice-themed psalm using the psalm of the day. For the Lenten season these will focus on creation justice. Some may be poetry, some song or art — the medium varies though word is the most common.

Just as a sample I give you Ash Wednesday’s Psalm 51, improvising from the lines for a creation justice focus. It appears first as psalm and then I have divided it so that it could be used responsively — on Ash Wednesday or another occasion (Earth Day may be an opportunity to share several of these psalms.)

Psalm 51: 1-17
To any leader. A Psalm of David, when he took what he wanted, uncaring of the death and damage it caused, which was great.

Have mercy on us, O God,
with the love that shaped all creation,
for we confess that we have been the ones
who blotted out —
made endangered and extinct —
creatures of air and land
by destroying their habitats.

If there is any clean water left, wash us,
but only after the creatures
of the oceans and lakes and rivers
return and are healed.

For we know our transgression —
we have torn off the tops of mountains
and our sin has fracked deep
into the very fissures of the earth.

Against you, melting your glaciers, we sin,
and we have done what is evil,
so that wildfires rage across
Australia, California,
and the Amazon rainforest
and the fox and koala and ocelot
judge us by their death.

Indeed, we are guilty against the newly born
who will be eleven years-old,
when our greed changes their earth
beyond hope of repair.

You desire truth,
but we clutch lies about the climate.
Help us repent so we can hear wisdom,
and make us wise enough to repent.

Let us not be clean,
but dirty in a community garden,
and wet with sweat
because we have walked and biked,
taken buses instead of cars,
cleaned ourselves with quick showers.

Let us taste the joy of locavores,
celebrate grizzly, wolf, gray whale,
sea lion, panda,
who have come back to thriving.

Most of all — let our hearts be stirred
not by what makes us wealthy in money
but what makes us wealthy in future.

Create in us a pure heart, O God,
and renew in us
the Spirit that hovers over your creation.

Then we will let our children teach us,
honor sacred lands of indigenous peoples,
open our lips for national parks
and our mouths for wildlife refuges.

Deliver us from being destroyers, O God,
and give us tongues that call for change.

For you have no delight
when we pile abundance on abundance.
The gift that pleases you
is one pollinator saved —
butterfly and bee, O God, is our acceptable prayer.

Psalm 51: 1-17 (responsive)

Have mercy on us, O God,
with the love that shaped all creation,

for we confess that we have been the ones
who blotted out —
made endangered and extinct —
creatures of air and land
by destroying their habitats.

If there is any clean water left, wash us,

but only after the creatures
of the oceans and lakes and rivers
return and are healed.

For we know our transgression —
we have torn off the tops of mountains

and our sin has fracked deep
into the very fissures of the earth.

Against you, melting your glaciers, we sin,
and we have done what is evil.

Wildfires rage across Australia, California,
and the Amazon rainforest
and fox and koala and ocelot
judge us by their death.

Indeed, we are guilty against the newly born —

who will be eleven years-old,
when our greed changes their earth
beyond hope of repair.

You desire truth but we clutch lies
about the climate.

Help us repent so we can hear wisdom,
and make us wise enough to repent.

Let us not be clean,

but dirty in a community garden,

and wet with sweat

because we have walked and biked,
taken buses instead of cars,
washed only with quick showers.

Let us taste the joy of locavores,

celebrate grizzly, wolf, gray whale,
sea lion, panda,
who have come back to thriving.

Most of all — let our hearts be stirred
not by what makes us wealthy in money
but what makes us wealthy in future.

Create in us a pure heart, O God,
and renew in us
the Spirit that hovers over your creation.

Then we will let our children teach us,
honor sacred lands of indigenous peoples,

open our lips for national parks
and our mouths for wildlife refuges.

Deliver us from being destroyers, O God,

and give us tongues that call for change.

For you have no delight
when we pile abundance on abundance.

The gift that pleases you
is one pollinator saved —
butterfly and bee, O God, is our acceptable prayer.

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2 Responses to Ash Wednesday Psalm Resource for Creation Justice

  1. Jessica McArdle says:

    Maren, thank you for this powerful rendering of Psalm 51 as relates to climate justice. A wholly necessary resource for Ash Wednesday, or as you suggested, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

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