This will be the Third Sunday in Lent. Repentance appears in the Lectionary readings for the day. That is a traditional Lenten theme, but one that has been widely misunderstood. Repentance brings up images that focus on guilt, shame and suffering for our sins. That could not be farther from what Jesus and Isaiah are calling us to experience! (Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke13:1-9) The word translated as repentance is metanoia in the Greek, which means to change our heart, mind and soul, to turn them in another direction. As Isaiah puts it, it is to choose God’s higher thoughts and higher ways.
We cannot move higher if we are wallowing lower in our wretchedness! Lent is hard, but not because we need to inflict self-denial and deprivation on ourselves. It is hard because breaking our old habitual thoughts and ways and turning to God’s is hard. Even admitting that we need to change challenges us to our core. That is what happens in the Lenten wilderness, but the progression of the church year reminds us that after the wilderness and cross , after the letting go of our old thoughts and ways of life, comes the resurrection into new and greater life. Lent is about transformation into our true self, which is God’s Spirit of love and life and light flowing through us as it flowed through Jesus.
This Sunday we will explore more about making this joyous transformation. We will sing the hymn “They Did Not Build in Vain” set to the tune of “The God of Abraham Praise.” We will also sing two old favorites, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” and “I Would Be True.” The choir will sing an Introit from the New Century Hymnal, “Each Winter as the Year Grows Older” with these words: “But I believe beyond believing, that life can spring from death;/That growth can flower from our grieving;/that we can catch our breath and turn transformed by faith.” They will sing the Anthem, “Hear Thou My Prayer, O Lord,” by Jacques Arcadelt. John Atwood will play organ pieces by Pachelbel, J.C. Bach (J.S. Bach’s uncle) and Palestrina.