March 13, 2018: Atonement

March 13, 2018

Bible Study Session #10: Atonement

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

This Sunday’s texts come from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Psalm 51:1-12. Both texts come from the Hebrew scriptures (aka the “Old” Testament). They include prophetic words and music about sin, mercy and forgiveness that have been with us for over 2000 years.


The prophet Jeremiah and the psalmist remind us that for centuries, human beings have been, despite our best efforts, imperfect. Unfortunately, even after all this time, even after the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have yet to figure out how to do everything “just right.” People continue to hurt us, and we continue to make choices that hurt others. In addition to the harm of those actions themselves, many of us carry another significant weight in our lives: regret, guilt and shame from past mistakes. We ask “What if…” and wonder “Why didn’t I…” We second guess ourselves and cry out to God to be merciful as we criticize ourselves for our failures.


Included in next Sunday’s service will be a ritual of confession, forgiveness and assurance. We will have a chance to confess to God those places in our lives where we feel like we’ve fallen short. In addition, we will have an opportunity to release our guilt, shame, and regret to God, freeing ourselves to move forward as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Bible Study Scripture

Jeremiah 31:31-34

New Revised Standard Version


31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Psalm 51:1-12

New Revised Standard Version


Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.