At an Episcopal music conference years ago, a Memphis colleague said to me, “You know what the scuttlebutt on the street is about Church of the Holy Communion, don’t you? They say that you never hear a bad sermon at Church of the Holy Communion.”
I smiled humbly, took a sip, and quietly said, “Well, yes, that’s true.”
Yesterday morning, the first Sunday in Lent, I heard a sermon that quickly grabbed my attention. Father Sandy’s thesis is that the parish church is the great hope of the world. In these troubled, mixed-up times, I completely agree.
Access Father Sandy’s March 10 sermon audio or manuscript here.
The other thing that nailed me was his comment, “Thanks be to God for Lent!”
Those who know me well know that I do not make the best Lenten Episcopalian. It is my cross to bear, I suppose. I do well for the first three or four weeks of Lent, but then I am ready for Easter Day.
Is this internal spiritual warfare, or as a parish musician, do I just love Eastertide music? Probably a little of both.
Our hymnal, The Hymnal 1982, is a wealth of riches. Yes, we have a number of hymnal supplements that have expanded our repertoire, but the hymnal itself is a solid theological tool for us all.
In it you will find all manner of Lenten hymns, those that describe the depths of Lent and Holy Week (“Go to dark Gethsemane”), along with those that prod us along and give us great hope.
This Sunday (March 17) we will sing two that qualify for hope and gratitude in the Lenten season. Hymn 152, “Kind maker of the world, O hear,” which we actually sang last Sunday during Communion, specifically asks God to help us “keep this holy fast of Lent.”
Kind Maker of the world, O hear the fervent pray, with many a tear
poured forth by all the penitent who keep this holy fast of Lent!
Give us the discipline that springs from abstinence in outward things
with inward fasting, so that we in heart and soul may dwell with thee.
These words are attributed to St. Gregory the Great (540-604) and are, therefore, among the most ancient texts in the book. And the hymn tune A la venue de Noël is a French folk tune that is very easy to sing.
Our departing procession hymn this Sunday is also one of those that applies to the paradox of giving thanks for Lent. For many years I thought is a bit big and grand for the Lenten season, but I then seriously considered the text and rethought.
Hail, thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, hour our Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us;
thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou universal Savior,
bearer of our sin and shame!
By thy merit we find favor:
Life is given through thy Name.
The four stanzas of this hymn have it all for Lent: Jesus’ life in Galilee, the Paschal Lamb foreshadowed, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the shed blood at Golgotha, and Jesus’ ascension and enthronement in glory.
Thanks be to God for Lent!