Lent does not deserve the reputation that it has for deprivation.
Yes, like Advent, it is a time for quiet reflection and truthful introspection, and it can be somber and lugubrious, especially as late winter drags into mud season and we come to Gethsemane and the cross, but it can also be a beautiful, spiritually rich, powerfully moving season.
This Sunday the congregation and choir will sing many beautiful hymn tunes, we will read one of the most reassuring Psalms, and we will hear the old familiar story of Jesus suffering real temptations just as we do and showing us a way to respond that brings angels to our aid.
Yes, Lent leads us into a wilderness, but it can be a lovely and love-filled and fruitful one, and any dark night of soul struggles that arise can end with our emerging from the wilderness transformed and filled with the Spirit, as happened to Jesus. The light of Easter dawn waits on the other side, the power of resurrection into new and greater life. The more intentional we are during Lent about our spiritual focus, the more growth and transformation will come to us, and the more brilliantly Easter light will shine.
The scriptures this First Sunday in Lent will be a responsive Call to Worship from Psalm 25 and the story of Jesus in the wilderness in Mark 1:9-15. The children will hear some of the story that Matthew and Luke add to Mark’s version, as well as an fable about a cat and a fox.
The congregation will sing the classic Lenten hymn “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” the moving spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” and a Lenten hymn set to an Advent tune, “God, This Wilderness Seems Trackless” (set to the tune of “Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying,” harmonized by JS Bach—Bach made the connection between Advent and Lent by sharing tunes back and forth in his cantatas).
The choir will sing a verse of the Passion Chorale, and “We Walk in Faith/In Times of Trouble” by Barbara Bridge and the ancient benediction, “God Be in My Head.”