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The best way to remember something is to turn it into a song.

"Albania, Albania

It borders on

The Adriatic"


Coach sings to Sam Malone on the old sitcom Cheers, and Sam, a notoriously bad student, passes his geography exam and receives his GED.


There was a girl in my high school who was sort of Oprah to the girls in our class - they all slipped notes though the vent in her locker, confided their secrets and problems to her and she dispensed them the wisdom she garnered from her older sister's college chums. I helped her get her locker open once when it was stuck and I remember her combination to this day - Locker 42:47-11-7. I set it to the Louis Prima Tune "Swing, Swing, Swing". I wish I could tell you I never did any reconnaissance work for friends worried about their sweethearts - but I rode a really late bus - and nothing is as delicious as a secret. Years later, when I was asked back to speak at graduation (its a sad day when locker violators are asked to be graduation speakers) I went to locker 42, humming that Louis Prima tune and opened it right up.


How many of us !earned our eight times tables, the uses of an adverb, and the Preamble of the Constitution from those great ABC schoolhouse rock segments?


If you want to remember something, set it to music.


I've had the opportunity the last two weeks to spend a lot of time in Psalm 51. Both my Sunday morning class (Prayer: The Hearts True Home), and my Wednesday night class of the Life of David) converged on it. David has sinned with Bathsheba. He took and violated another man's wife. This man, Uriah, was one of his most valiant and loyal compatriots. When a cover-up failed, David engineered Uriah's murder. Then, in perhaps the greatest confrontation of Scripture, God convicts David of his sin through Nathan the Prophet. We have his statement of repentance immediately in II Samuel 12:13, but Psalm 51 is the full outpouring of his heart.


We know Psalm 51 was written about this episode because the superscription above the Psalm (which is part of the text) tells us so. We also know it because the subject matter is unmistakable. David worries about losing the "presence of God", and the "joy of salvation", because of his "blood-guilt" and his deceit. He asks God to do whatever it takes - beat him with a stick, slap him on a rock - to restore him to right relationship. He asks for "grace" based upon God's "covenant loyalty", and understands what God really wants is his "broken and contrite heart". It is the ideal expression of repentance.


But two things have continued to puzzle me about the Psalm. The first is the vague way reference is made to David's sin with Bathsheba. He comes right out and admits blood-guilt - but he stops short of giving details about what he did to her. Why this reticence? Secondly, the Psalm ends with a blessing upon the nation Israel which seems so out of place in a prayer of personal repentance. Why shift gears so jarringly in a private prayer?


Then I saw something, I'd never seen before. I saw the first four words of the Psalm: "To the Choir Director".


"To the Choir Director". This isn't a private prayer - it is a public profession of guilt, intended to be sung and remembered. This is why the nation is blessed at the end -they're all singing the song. And perhaps this is why Bathsheba's privacy is respected (which is more respect than I paid to the tenant of locker 42).


This unflinching, heart-breaking act of repentance was done in public, for all to see. This is raw, honest, repentance -free of legalese, and lawyerliness. This is sinful man, vulnerable before God, and the eyes of the nation asking for - and receiving grace.


History is filled Director" w4th heroic acts - but I can't recall any that excel the penning of those four words - "To the Choir



Lord help us to be honest

with you

with ourselves

with eachother when we sin:

And help us to remember

repentance receives grace -

immediate, immeasurable grace,

not punishment.


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