This week — the first Sunday of Lent — the choir sings two anthems, the first a setting by Russell Schulz-Widmar of a poem by the seventeenth-century English poet, Robert Herrick (of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” fame). Schulz-Widmar sets Herrick’s devotional lyric, “Sweet spirit, comfort me” to a melody by the eighteenth-century French composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The organ music this week is by Charpentier’s contemporary (and for a brief time colleague at the royal court), Francois Couperin. The second anthem this Sunday is “Haste thee, O God,” by the seventeenth-century English composer, Adrian Batten, a setting of Psalm 70.
If we reflect back on great movements in world history, those times when people had a moment of conscience or found themselves in conflict with others, one of the powerful byproducts were the songs they sang. Whenever and wherever people have gathered to study the Gospel and pray, a song has often followed. As one scholar put it: “Songs play an interpretative note in the narratives they punctuate.”  In the Old Testament, the Song of Moses and the Song of Hannah expressed the people’s longing for God’s justice as well as God’s deliverance from their enemies. In the New Testament, both Mary’s Song (Lk. 1:46-55) and Paul and Silas singing hymns to God from their prison cell (Acts 16:25) remind us that when people of faith faced difficult trials, songs of comfort, songs of praise, songs of lament, and songs of hope filled the air.
During the American civil rights movement, songs of resistance and hope burst forth out of darkness and violence. “We Shall Overcome,” they sang. “We’ll walk hand in hand” they sang. “We shall live in peace,” they sang. Today, as followers of Christ, what is our song? What is the song that unites people of faith in a common cause to heal and proclaim God’s love for all people?
During the season of Lent, we will explore this theme through liturgy, sermon, and song. We’ll look more closely at songs in scripture and the songs sung throughout history when the people of faith found their voices and made melody before the Lord (Ps. 27:6). Come and sing a new song!
 Brian Bock. Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture. 2007.
Lent & Easter happenings at Westminster
Sunday, March 18—Fifth Sunday in Lent, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, March 21—Lenten communion service, 7:00 p.m.
Worship with communion, Taizé chants and readings.
Sunday, March 25—Palm/Passion Sunday, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Children and youth are invited to join in the procession of palms to begin our journey into holy week.
The One Great Hour of Sharing offering will be collected—bring in your fish banks!
Thursday, March 29—Maundy Thursday, dinner 6:00 p.m., worship 7:00 p.m.
Soup supper followed by worship with the Last Supper dramatized in tableau.
Friday, March 30—Good Friday worship service, 6:00 p.m.
Tenebrae service with sung lamentations, candlelight, and Psalms.
Sunday, April 1—Easter, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Celebrate Christ’s Resurrection at 8:30 with communion and at 11:00 with reaffirmation of baptism. Between the services enjoy brunch and participate in the flowering of the cross.
Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018
6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m.
As Lent begins, I want to invite you to attend a time of prayer and meditation on Ash Wednesday, February 14th. (Yes, I know that’s Valentine’s Day, too.) Typically, Ash Wednesday services are brief (20-30 minutes) and include music, prayer, liturgy, and the imposition of ashes. Again this year, you have two choices: 6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. If you’re on your way to work or are generally a morning person anyway, you can stop by the sanctuary for a brief service at 6:30 a.m. and then join other early birds for a cup of coffee or tea and some pastries in the Gathering Space. Of course, if that’s too early, you can attend an evening service at 6:30 pm. Either way, the time of Ash Wednesday at Westminster Presbyterian Church should be etched on our minds: Just remember…6:30.
My favorite among Paul’s letters was sent to the church at Philippi. Paul gives thanks for them and their gift to him in prison, and asserts his well-being and bond with them in Christ. His emphases are ‘joy’ and ‘grace.’
Joy?—given his imprisonment and an undercurrent of opposition from fellow Christians? He rejoices in “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus”, and feels assured of God’s love, through faith in the risen Christ. Paul’s greeting and benediction commend grace: God’s love undeserved and unreserved, both received and extended. He is not basking in self-assured spiritual achievement; he is on a faith-journey that calls for perseverance:
…One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward
to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward
call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b-14
Like Paul and the Philippians, we are a post-Resurrection people. We claim to serve a risen Christ, yet admit how far short we fall from Christ-like living.
Lent is a pause in our faith-journey, to remember Jesus’ self-giving love and our own resentments and failures to love, to seek anew “the power of his resurrection” into new life.
Every Lent, I feel this challenge. How can I “press on” toward becoming a more faithful image of Jesus, a more authentic human being? Can I find ways in my church and community to extend respect and justice to the marginalized? For grace is also a collective offer, not just God’s private gift.
Do we recognize the opportunities for grace?
These days we witness acts of grace: a Jewish household hosts a Muslim refugee family; a church offers sanctuary to undocumented immigrants; demonstrators support Dakota Indians’ rights. Several years ago, a Palestinian boy of 13 was mortally wounded by Israeli soldiers. His family decided to donate Ahmed’s organs to Israeli children who needed them. “We want to send a message of peace to Israeli society”, the father said.
Two societies did not heed an act of grace. Often, we do not. Lent calls us to “press on,” “enabled by, and offering, Christ’s undeserved, unreserved love.
~ David Warren