The Fifth Sunday of Lent brings us into the depths of the wilderness of transformation where the deepest sorrow and joy exist in tension. We will hear Psalm 126 say, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” And in Isaiah 43:18-21 we hear God promise, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Change is often uncomfortable, even when it is for the best. Sometimes we cannot perceive it or perceive the good of it. All we know is that things do not feel the same as before and we are not happy about it. We read the familiar gospel story of Mary pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and you and I know the poignant beauty of that act on the eve of Christ’s final days in Jerusalem. Others at the time did not know that Good Friday and Easter were coming, and could not perceive the goodness of what Mary did. Jesus tries to open their eyes and hearts (and ours) to see what really matters. (John 12:1-8)
Paul also is trying to get us to see what matters most in life and to press on toward it with our all. He wants us to get our perceptions and our priorities right. (Philippians 3:4b-14)
God is doing a new thing in our church right now. In fact many new things are happening thanks to the hard and faithful work of people in this congregation. If you can perceive it, you will want to celebrate it. (Don’t miss the youtube at the end of this post!)
We will read a prayer by Thomas Merton and sing three beautiful and beloved hymns. Two are old favorites–Nearer, My God, to Thee and O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go–and one is a more recent favorite from the New Century Hymnal, the spiritual I Want Jesus to Walk with Me. You can hear a powerful, prayerful version of it by Sharon Irving, below.
The choir will sing another selection from the New Century Hymnal as the introit, the Fanny Crosby gospel hymn, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. The Anthem will be Lamb of God by Samuel Webbe. Organist John Atwood will play pieces by three great composers of the late Renaissance or Baroque era, J. P. Sweelinck, J. Pachelbel and J. G. Walther.