Eternal Lord of love, behold your Church
walking once more the pilgrim way of Lent,
Led by your cloud by day, by night your fire,
Moved by your love and toward your presence bent:
Far off yet there the goal of all desire.
These are the first words that we’ll sing together when we gather on Sunday morning for the liturgy of the First Sunday in Lent. I love how this imagery reminds us that Lent is not merely a season, but part of our journey as Christians; a challenging stretch of road along the path of our pilgrimage of faith. The texts that we read and digest during this season can sometimes feel abrasive. They remind us of our mortality and call us to reflect upon the less comfortable parts of our humanness—sin, failure, loneliness.
To share a few of the greatest hits from this week’s choral music:
“Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.”
— From Psalm 51 attributed to King David.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.”
— From the Book of Isaiah.
“Jesus, so lonely, weary and sad; teach me that only love maketh glad.”
— By poet Edith Williams.
Rather than experience these texts as gloomy or archaic, it is helpful to remember that these are words shared by fellow travelers along the path. King David is said to have spoken the words of Psalm 51 as a confession to God after he sinned with Bathsheba. The author of the text from Isaiah likely wrote his pointed admonishment while the Israelites were exiled in Babylon. The English poet Edith Williams shared her best-known poem with the American composer Harold Friedell in the closing days of World War II.
These characters lived in times different from ours, yet in their stories we share in their experience of faith. In their failures we understand our own humanness. In their example we find a model of self-reflection. They, too, were pilgrims on the journey nearer to the love of God.
Brent Erstad, Director of Music and Organist
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: