Proper 13(B): Renew a Right Spirit Within Me

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By: The Rev. Brandon Duke

The writer of Psalm 51 has been around the block a time or two. They recognized when they messed up and asked for mercy. They knew renewal of spirit was possible no matter what. “Give me just one more last chance,” they seemed to say.

I remember the first time I made a formal confession to a priest. I was nervous, and slightly humiliated because the priest hearing my confession was no stranger. She was my parish priest. We prayed and ate together. We sang and walked together. We had a spiritual friendship and mutual respect for one another. I remember writing down my confession because I didn’t want to forget anything. I remember confessing in a side chapel with votive candles and stained glass. I remember where the priest sat, and I knelt. As I recalled my sins, the priest listened. She could tell I was nervous. Maybe she was nervous too? After the formal confession, she stood up, absolved me, then put both hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Brandon, you’re going to make a great priest. Now go to the altar and pray Psalm 51, then be on your way.”

I remember feeling lightheaded and free. I remembered joy and tranquility. I felt loved. My spiritual friend, who happened to be my priest, acknowledged that I had been around the block a time or two. She admitted that I had messed up but that God’s mercy is always sufficient. She reminded me (and my own body reminded me with its lightness) that renewal of spirit is always possible. Finally, the Divine gave me one more last chance as God is always eager to forgive and not condemn.

I’ll never forget that first confession and the grace given to me by God through my parish priest. This week, remember mercy, compassion, and forgiveness as expressed in Psalm 51 or your own spiritual friend. Preach God’s grace this week, renewing a right spirit within your hearers as well as your soul.

The Rev. Brandon Duke serves as a chaplain to two hospital systems in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. He blogs at

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