We have a choice of how we view Lent. We can take the view that it is all about dreaded deprivation and punishing self-discipline, a long mud season that is all about the mud, or we can see it as a time of spiritual deepening and exploration and growth, a mud season that is all about the seeds and bulbs beneath the ground that are starting to send up their shoots toward the coming spring.
I use the word lugubrious half-jokingly about Lent–only half joking because February and mud-season can be a little dismal, and sometimes seriously dismal, and yet I love the moments when we first notice how strong the sun is feeling on our face, or how happy the streams are sounding, or we hear the first redwing blackbirds sing.
The somber Lenten music and scriptures that confront us with our shadowy false selves lead us to discover the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness does not overcome. That is the joy of Lent. A butterfly needs to struggle out of the cocoon in order to strengthen its wings to fly. We need to pass through the wilderness of spiritual struggle to prepare ourselves for the flight from the tomb at Easter dawn.
This First Sunday in Lent we will read the beautiful promise of Psalm 91 of the protection, salvation and blessings that will come to those who love and make God their refuge. We will see a model of this in the story of the children of Israel reaching the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 26:1-9) and Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-14). We will reflect on our own lives and our church and the potential for transformation our own wildernesses offer us. We will sing Be Still My Soul and the great Lenten hymn, Forty Days and Forty Nights. We will also sing God This Wilderness Seems Trackless, Lenten words set to an Advent tune (Wake, Awake for Night Is Calling), connecting the two church seasons of preparation for the coming light.
The choir will sing “Again We Keep This Solemn Fast” as the Introit, an Ash Wednesday hymn from the New Century Hymnal, as well as “We Look to Thee” by Bob Burroughs. John will play pieces by three great church composers, J.S. Bach, J. Pachelbel and F.W. Zachau who was a teacher of G.F. Handel.