Few things make us appreciate the warmth of our homes more than the kind of frigid windchill we’ve been experiencing off and on recently. Few things make us appreciate the warmth, light, peace and beauty of our sanctuary more than a Lenten wilderness, whatever may be making us feel lost or tempted or tried. A pastor who did hard labor in Chinese communist prisons for decades said after his release that any Christian who has not truly suffered is an infant and cannot possibly know the true meaning of God’s love and grace. One of the reasons 12 Step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous gain the loyalty of addicts is that they come there from rock bottom and find just the home and community and help they need to climb back into the light.
The church is that way, too, at its best. This congregation has a history of welcoming people that other churches might have rejected and surrounding them with loving support. This Sunday we will read scriptures where God and Jesus open wide the door of their salvation for all people who have the yearning and faith to seek it. We will celebrate that in the midst of all our Lenten wildernesses we always have this loving welcome waiting to comfort and nurture us.
We will read the beautiful King James Version of Psalm 121, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” as well as Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 and John 3:1-17. We will sing three moving hymns full of longing and love and faith: the great Lenten spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me” (we sang one verse at the end of the service last Sunday–this week we will sing the entire hymn); “In Heavenly Love Abiding;” and another connection to Advent like last week’s, the tune “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” with the text, “How Lovely Is Your Dwelling” based on Psalm 84.
The choir will sing one of the earliest hymns, “Where Charity and Love Prevail,” and “Hide Not Thou Thy Face” by Richard Farrant. Organist John Atwood will perform pieces by J.P. Sweelinck, J. Pachelbel and Nicolas de Grigny.