Alien Righteousness

Greetings in Christ,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, 

and renew a right spirit within me. 

Cast me not away from your presence, 

and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, 

and uphold me with a willing spirit.    Psalm 51. 10-12

Psalm 51 is all around us during Lent and Holy Week. We say or sing some or all of it during the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. Psalm 51 is a psalm of confession and repentance. It is a psalm of recognition that before God there must be mercy for my sin is ever before me, and because of that sin, I cannot stand in God’s presence. It is a psalm that understands that there must be a change within me so that my life can be lived in and for God.

Psalm 51 also recognizes that the change that needs to take place in my life has to come from outside myself. It is a change that I cannot make on my own. It is a change that has to come from outside my personal righteousness.  Luther talked about 'alien righteousness,' that is a righteousness that is not our own but comes from outside of us to us. 

'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.' is our plea to God to make us a new creation. It is a plea we all must make for as St. Paul confesses in Romans, 'We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' Our Lenten journey is our recognition that the righteousness we need for salvation has to come to us from God. Without that mercy and grace, we would have nothing upon which we could stand before the Lord.