The Fifth Sunday in Lent takes us into the depths of the suffering and danger that Lent represents. Jesus has been in the wilderness without food or water, exposed to the brutal elements, for a month. He is getting weaker and more vulnerable. Succumbing to temptation or death is an increasing possibility. The lectionary scripture passages have been leading us on a parallel journey toward the cross, with tension increasing around Jesus as he confronts the religious and political establishment with actions that threaten to overturn them. They are plotting his death even as he heals and raises people from the dead and lifts the hopes of the poor and oppressed.
Next week, on April 9th, we will follow the Passion Story from Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the arrest, betrayal, desertion and crucifixion on Good Friday. Here in the depths of Lent with all that coming ahead, Easter can seem impossible. How can the light shine in this darkness without the darkness overcoming it? The amazing thing is that even asking that question can raise a small, fragile but defiant candle in our hearts.
The music we will hear and sing will raise just such candles in beautiful and meaningful ways. We will sing “Great Is Your Faithfulness,” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and “Abide With Me” as the communion hymn. The choir will sing a J.S. Bach tune, “Give to the Winds Thy Fears,” as the Introit, urging us to “hope and be undismayed…so shall this night soon end in joyous day.” The choir will also sing the beloved “God So Loved the World.”
We will read from Psalm 130 that begins, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” and then celebrates the steadfast mercy of God that is so worth waiting for, “more than those who watch for the morning.” The other scriptures affirm the power of life over death, urging us to have faith and not despair. We will hear the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead (John 11:1-45), and the famous story of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) and Paul’s beautiful assurance that “to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6-11)
Organist John Atwood will play pieces by Frescobaldi, J.-F. Dandrieu and J. S. Bach.
Below are three very different selections of the music for this Sunday.