Create. Clean. Renew.

a poetic reflection on Psalm 5: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me.”

Every Sunday

as I pour water over my fingers

and shake them over the lavabo

these few words

are the ones I use

before I lean into the mystery of the Eucharist,

to preside.


Sometimes I say them aloud, reverently and with piety,

on the weeks the liturgy is going without a hitch

and we look so high church 

it would make the National Cathedral jealous

and the liturgy feels big and perfect.


Other times, there’s only room to see them like flash cards,

a chyron scrolling across my brain

when there’s the occasional mild chaos…

Those times when the dance of getting things ready

around the altar isn’t going so smooth,

and I’m comforting someone 

who’s upset with themselves

that they didn’t do something “right”,

and I smile…and tell them

that Jesus always shows up anyway.


I remind myself from time to time

that the words are not a magic incantation

to make me all clean and pure somehow.

Instead, they are for me

an invocation of the Trinity,

the ones who are really doing the heavy lifting at the Eucharist.


Create–the hand of the Creator,

the one who made the bread and wine.

Clean–the divine embrace of the Son,

the one who cleanses hearts and provides the grace,

the bridge between the unattainable divine and me.

Renew–the mysterious breath of the Holy Spirit,

the most secret of secret ingredients 

coming down from above,

embedding herself in the elements

without baking, stirring, or whipping.

I’ve prayed those words

and danced this dance

at so many altars

as an interim priest,

no two alike,

with so many folks

who danced this dance with me

fully knowing someday I’ll say goodbye

and ride off into the sunset

in my rootless, High Plains Drifter kind of way.


Some of the faces

I remember around those altars

are now in the company of saints.

Some are still there, but I am not…

and yet they are all there with me

when the words come from my lips

or spin around in my brain

when there’s too much distraction to say them.


“Create in me a clean heart, O God;

And renew a right spirit within me.”

Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO. 

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