Lent has an intense beauty to it. This Sunday we are as deep in that wilderness and darkness as we go.
We will read the classic Lenten Psalm 51, with its poignant prayer that is part confession, part lamentation, part pure faith: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put in me a new and right spirit.” We will hear the Prophet Jeremiah deliver a promise from God that we will be forgiven and restored, and God will write a covenant on our hearts, and we will all know God intimately. (31:31-34)
We will also hear Jesus struggling in the last week of his life, seeing what is going to happen, saying, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (John 12:20-33)
The central metaphor of the Gospel passage is the wisdom saying of Jesus, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The seed does not want to die, its soul is troubled, so it needs the faith that this kind of dying is the path to greater life.
Whatever struggles we are going through, whatever losses or unwanted changes we are suffering, whatever old ways we need to leave behind, the beautiful message of Lent is that there is a way to new and abundant life no matter how awful things now feel.
We do not make that transformation for ourselves alone. New and abundant life is a gift we then can offer to those around us who are suffering and to a hurting world.
The congregation will sing three soulful and beautiful hymns, the Spanish “Pues Si Vivimos,” the African-American spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” and a new set of words, “My Soul Is Troubled,” set to the tune of “Be Still My Soul” (Finlandia). The choir will sing an Introit by John Bell of Iona, “Bring Your Best to Their Worst,” and an Anthem composed by Tchaikovsky with words from a poem by the Russian Romantic writer and painter, M. Lermontov. Annemieke will play piano pieces by J.S. Bach and J. Haydn. The postlude will be the last of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ sonatas. You can hear the entire recording here.