Psalm 103 proclaims “11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast love toward those who fear the Lord; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far God re-moves our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compas-sion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.”
During March, our praise song will be “East to West.” The music will be a bit challenging (but we do have a whole month to become familiar with it). The message is based on the Psalm. It places our struggles with who we are and who we want to be within the context of God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.
Think of the image. How far is the East from the West? If you travel north, you will pass the North Pole. After that, you will travel south. Pass the South Pole, and you travel north. On the other hand, you can travel east for the rest of your life; or west. There is no directional dividing line. In that regard, I think the distance from east to west is infinite. That is how far God “removes our transgressions from us.”
There is more to the image; our part, if you will. If you travel east, the only way to travel west is to turn around and go the opposite direction. The Biblical image for repentance is a “change of mind.” In some ways, the deeper and more permanent meaning of Lent is to be found in our changes of mind. We usually think of the Lenten discipline as temporarily giving things up or temporarily taking things on. While this is fine, it misses the fullness of the Psalm.
To be touched by the greatness of God’s love, to feel forgiven and accepted, to be changed by that love and forgiveness into those that love and forgive — that is the fullness of the Psalm. It is also the deeper meaning of Lent.
Thanks be to God.