Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Worship for Lent 2 - 2012

Wednesday after Lent 1
Leap Day
February 29, 2012

The Lord be with you

The season of Lent has begun. This season precedes the Easter season. It is actually 46 days long (counting from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday), but we say it is 40 days long. That is because Sundays are not counted. The early Christians remembered with special devotion the forty hours during which our Savior lay in the tomb. The period of commemoration was later extended to two weeks (the Passiontide), and eventually, in recognition of the forty days of our Lord’s temptation, to forty days. Lent is a season of self-reflection and repentance. In recognition of this, many give something up for Lent. In-other-words, they fast from something. Since Sundays were never fast-days, the extra days were added so there would be forty fast-days, broken up by Sundays when the people did not fast. This is reflected in the official names for these Sunday. They are Sundays “in” Lent, not Sundays “of” Lent. The name Lent is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring, the time when the days lengthen.

During Lent many church omit the singing anything with the word “Alleluia” in it. Also omitted are other expressions of joy, like the hymn of praise. These all return on Easter.

There are some who feel the focus on repentance, the suffering and death of Jesus, and other such Lenten themes are somehow sub-Christian. To such people I ask that they return to the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Notice how much space is given to the final week in the life of Jesus. Nothing compares. Remember also that, while obviously the events being described all happened before Easter, they are recorded after Easter. That is to say, after Easter the Gospel writers felt is was vitally important for our spiritual life to record this information. To be frank, an Easter without a Good Friday is an empty holiday from a biblical perspective.

This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday in Lent. For our liturgy we will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching, which begins on page 260 of the Lutheran Service Book. Our opening hymn will be “Lamb of God” (LSB 550). Our sermon hymn will be “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (LSB 765). Our closing hymn will be “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” (LSB 685). The appointed lessons for the day are Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; and Mark 8:27-38. Prayer and Preaching is one of those services where we use the appointed Psalm instead of the appointed Introit for the day. Sunday’s Psalm is Psalm 22:23-31. The antiphon is verse 22.

Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 8:34. The sermon is titled “Take Up Your Cross.” In it we will be exploring the meaning of bearing your cross.

In our prayers Sunday we will remember the Lanka Lutheran Church (LLC) of Sri Lanka and their President, Rev. Govindan Nadaraja. We will remember Anthony DiLiberto, our missionary in Peru. We will remember the persecuted believers in Egypt and our sister congregations: Prince of Peace, Charlotte, NC; Resurrection, Charlotte, NC; Bethel, Claremont, NC; Holy Cross, Clayton, NC; and Good Shepherd, Charleston, SC. We remember the orphans in Haiti that our youth are seeking to help. We also will continue to remember those who are trapped by the modern practice of slavery, and those who have fallen victim to our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality.

I must admit, I’m a little frustrated. I want to post a video of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” which is the sermon hymn. While many have recorded it, they can’t seem to do it “straight.” The words are by William Cowper, and the tune in our hymnal if from The CL Psalmes of David, Edinburgh. It was first published in 1774. Three of Cowper’s hymns were included in The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship reduced than number to two, and Lutheran Service Book has only this one. If you are going to include only one of his hymns, this is the one you want to pick. However, if you don’t know Cowper’s story, you might not know why this is the hymn to pick. You can tell from many of the videos and arrangements on YouTube, that many don’t know Cowper’s story. The following is from The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal.
    William Cowpder (1779-1823) was born in his father’s rectory at Berkhampsted, England, on November 26, 1731. Although Cowper’s mother died when he was only six years old, she had become a real friend and companion to him. When he received a picture of her in his sixteenth year, Cowper composed some lines to her memory which are indeed a high tribute. At school Cowper was wretched because of his extreme shyness and eccentric character. Later at Westminster he adjusted himself a little better. Here Cowper studied law. At this time he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora Cowper, and wrote love poems to her. Her father forbade her to marry Cowper, but she never forgot him and in later years secretly aided his necessities. Fits of melancholy began to seize Cowper with greater regularity. His nomination to the Clerkship of the Journals of the House of Lords proved a calamity. The thought of a public examination disturbed him to the extent of overthrowing his reason and driving him to attempted suicide with “laudanum, knife, and cord.” The delusion of his life now appeared – a belief in his reprobation by God. Under the wise and Christian treatment of Dr. Cotton at St. Albans this malady passed away. In general the next eight years were happy ones for Cowper – full of the realization of God’s favor. This was the happiest, most lucid period of his life. The first two years of this period were sepnt at Huntington, where Cowper formed the life-long friendship of Mrs. Unwin, the wife of the Rev. Morley Unwin. The remainder was spent at Olney with John Newton, with whom Cowper collaborated on the justly famous Olney Hymns. But the tension of the Calvinist exercises, the despondence of Newton, and the death of Cowper’s brother brought another attack of madness and attempted suicide. For sixteen months Cowper lived under this dark cloud. Mrs. Unwin kept him occupied with small tasks and suggested that he do some serious poetical work. The malady gradually left Cowper by the time his cousin, Lady Hesketh, brought him to Weston in 1786. But the death of Mrs. Unwin brought “fixed despair” of which Cowper’s last poem, the Castaway, is a terrible memorial. From this melancholy Cowper never recovered. He died at East Dereham on April 25, 1800.
“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was published under the title “Light out of Darkness.” The title evidently had reference to Cowper’s mental affliction. While suffering a lighter “attack” he wrote the hymn for his own spiritual strengthening. James Montgomery says it was written “in the twilight of departing reason.” From Cowper’s troubled soul came a hymn that has brought comfort and assurance to many a troubled soul since.

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. This Sunday we will pick up at Matthew 15. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16: This is the account of God making the covenant of circumcision with Abraham. It actually encompasses the entire chapter. As the story unfolds, in the chapter, God appears to Abraham when he is 99-years-old, identifies himself, tells Abraham to “walk before him and be blameless” as Abrahams responsibility under the covenant. Then Abraham is given promises, has his name changed from Abram to Abraham, and given the sign of circumcision, to be performed on the eighth day. Abraham finds the promise of a child by his aged wife Sarah hard to believe, and pleads that the promise may be transferred to his son, Ishmael. God says no, the future child of Sarah would be the one to bear the promise, however Ishmael is not left out. He is also given a blessing from God. After God leaves, Abraham has his whole household circumcised. A couple of things jump out in this story. First, the initiative is God’s. Second is that the children are brought into the covenant relationship at the age of eight, long before they can make a decision or commitment. This again accents God’s grace. Third, the miraculous nature of the promised birth of Isaac foreshadows the miraculous birth of Jesus. Neither Sarah nor Mary should have been able to conceive, though obviously the miracle about the conception of Jesus is greater than the miracle with the conception of Isaac. Finally, the shedding of blood in circumcision in order to enter into the covenant pointed forward to the shedding of blood by our Lord Jesus that we might enter into our covenant relationship with God.

Romans 5:1-11: About these verses Martin Luther wrote, “Paul comes to the fruits and works of faith, such as peace, joy, love to God and to every man, as well as confidence, assurance, boldness, courage, and hope amid tribulation and suffering. For all this follows, if faith be true, because of the superabundant goodness that God shows us in Christ, causing Christ to die for us before we could ask it of him, indeed, while we were still enemies. Thus we have it that faith justifies without any works; and yet it does not follow that men are therefore to do no good works, but rather that the genuine works will not be lacking.”

Mark 8:27-38: In verses 27-30 we find Mark’s account of Peter’s great confession that Jesus is “the Christ.” In verses 31-33 Jesus begins to speak of his upcoming death at the hands of the religious authorities. Even though Jesus clearly says he will rise after three days, the disciples must have missed this important point. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke the Lord, telling him his plan was seriously flawed. Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” What strong words! But it is true, human nature always seems to seek the easy, comfortable way. In verses 34-38 Jesus tells us that the life of the Christian is not shaped by the same concerns that shape the life of the non-Christian. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus.


• The March newsletter has been posted. Just click on the “newsletter” link found in the left hand side-bar. The calendar of events for March can be found in the same side-bar. .

• Our Wednesday Lenten services have begun. We again have a 12:15 service and a 7:00 PM service. The evening service is preceded by a soup supper, beginning at 6:15 PM. Our focus this year is our new Stations of the Cross. Join us each week as we travel with our Lord his Way of Sorrows.

Well, I pray I’ll see you both Sunday and Wednesday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

No comments:

Post a Comment