The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Refreshment Sunday” or “Laetare Sunday,” laetare being Latin meaning “rejoice.” Traditionally things lightened up for this one Sunday of Lent and then went back into the lugubrious wilderness until Easter.
This Sunday we will certainly have refreshment and rejoicing, if you love beautiful scriptures and hymns. We have an all-star lineup. We begin with one of the most uplifting and reassuring Psalms, number 32, which has one great line after another. Read it slowly, pausing after each verse, and you will feel the power of it. We will follow that by singing the great poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s beloved hymn that starts, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind,/ Forgive our foolish ways./ Reclothe us in our rightful mind;/ In purer lives thy service find,/ In deeper reverence praise.”
That is the theme of the day: God forgiving our former ways, restoring us to our rightful mind and accepting us in the beloved community of the church to serve and worship. It starts in the Psalm and continues in the other two scriptures, the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, and that great passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (5:16-21)
We will sing the classic response to being saved and transformed by God, Amazing Grace. We will also sing a communion hymn that deserves to be better known, Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken, set to a tune attributed to the same composer who wrote our Doxology, Louis Bourgeois, who is an extremely important figure in protestant hymn history. Listen to the youtube recording of the hymn below.
The choir will sing “If I Have Been the Source of Pain, O God,” from the New Century Hymnal, and Ralph Vaughan Williams communion classic, “O Taste and See.” John Atwood will play organ pieces by Frescobaldi, J.L. Krebs (a pupil of J.S. Bach) and Paulus Hofhaymer.
Here is the recording of the communion hymn we will be singing. It is clearest when she plays it the second time through, so be sure to listen at least that far.