A Lenten Hymn

It seems to be a tradition among Lutherans to have an evening service once a week during Lent, usually on Wednesday. This service is generally shorter than the Sunday service and doesn’t include communion. Like any other season of the church year, the same hymns are used year after year. “Lord Jesus Think on Me” is one I associate with Lent. It is an ancient Christian hymn that was written by the Bishop of Ptolemais, Synesius of Cyrene around 375 AD. as an epilog to a series of nine odes that explained the most important doctrines of the church. As you will notice, it is a prayer to Christ asking for his help in the struggles of life. It has been translated into many languages and is still widely used. Listen and give thanks for the Lord who has saved you!

For more Lenten hymns see:

Glory Be to Jesus!

O Holy Jesus

I Surrender All? Or Just Some?

The Right Kind of Faith

Our congregation has weekly Lenten services, and this year we’ve been blessed to have a minister who attends our church bring the Wednesday messages.  His homily this week addressed the critical topic of faith.

Have you ever thought about the idea that there are different sorts or levels of faith?  For example, I may understand Christianity.  I may be able to recite the Apostle’s Creed.  I may even read the Bible and attend church, and be perfectly well informed in the basics tenets of the faith.  I may know all this, but still not really believe it.

Or, I may know it and believe it in a superficial way.  I may intellectually accept it.  I may say, “yes, this is true.  These are the facts.”  I believe that Jesus died, was resurrected and is God’s Son.  I may believe in this way and yet still act as if these things do not matter.  I may fail to put my full trust in the facts that I profess to believe.  This has been called being a “practical pagan” or a “Christian atheist.” (You’ll read more about this in an upcoming book review.)

Saving faith not only understands and assents to the Christian worldview, it transforms believers.  Those who truly believe are willing to make changes in the way they live.  They surrender their will to put on” the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) They trust Him even when their life and the world seem out of control.  Job was evidencing a saving faith when he said:

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  Job 13:15

The analogy our speaker gave went like this:  maybe every day, you see a man push a wheelbarrow across a tightrope between two skyscrapers;  you see it with your own eyes, so you know it is true;  you believe that every day he will continue to do this successfully.  However, this is the test– are you willing to get into the wheelbarrow?

There are some big theological words for each type of faith, but I don’t remember them, and you probably don’t need to know them either.  So I’ll simply leave you with our Lenten question for the week:  Do you have the right kind of faith?  Will you get into the wheelbarrow?

Lenten Discipline

This article was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador.  I thought it would be appropriate to post during this season of Lent.

Are you a disciplined person?  Do you go to the gym or walk regularly to exercise your body?  Do you take all the training offered in your workplace so that you can advance in your career?  Do your read child development books and Parents Magazine in the hopes of becoming the best mom or dad you can be?

All of these activities require discipline, and most of us are willing to practice discipline when the end result is important to us.

Lent is a season of spiritual discipline. At the time of the Reformation,  when some wanted to eliminate Lent,  Martin Luther argued for keeping it saying,

“Lent, Palm Sunday and Easter week should be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the gospels appointed for that season”  Luther’s Works 53:90

Adopting a Lenten practice has real spiritual value.  It can help us develop self-control by detaching our desires from worldly things.  We may identify more strongly with Christ’s suffering and meditate on the true meaning of discipleship.  It is a concrete way to express sorrow and repentance for our sins.

Most often I hear people say they are observing Lent by giving something up (in the case of Lutherans, this is usually coffee or desserts, which seem to be our particular vices!)  There is nothing wrong with fasting for Lent, especially if we are avoiding something which is a particular area of sin or a distraction for us.  I am an avid reader and I sometimes “fast” from all secular reading during Lent.  This opens up more time for reading the Bible and devotional literature.  You might “fast” from watching TV for the same reason;  or give up recreational shopping or eating out and donate the money you save to a worthy cause.

Adding something to your schedule is another way to practice spiritual discipline.  If your church has a weekly Lenten service, go — this is a discipline that will help you grow in your faith!  One year our congregation shared our favorite Bible verses and committed ourselves to memorizing one new verse each day during Lent. It was marvelous to see the variety in God’s word and an incentive to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  You might try setting aside extra time for prayer, offering your services to a local ministry, or writing notes of encouragement to people who need God’s love.

We are each unique, so be creative in finding the Lenten exercise that stretches an increases your faith.  If you think of Lent as a journey, you may very well end up in a new place when it is over.  Make it a time of exciting discovery instead of that dreary season you have to endure on the way to Easter.  Have a blessed Lent as you seek his face.


Walking through the Services

All my life I’ve gone to church on a fairly regular basis. Growing up, my parents added Sunday School and Vacation Bible Study to what we were required to attend. Then there was confirmation. As I got older, it didn’t seem so important to attend church regularly and besides, it’s hard to get the family up, dressed and out the door. Gee, I have to do this all week long, do I really have to do this on Sunday, too? This is what would go through my mind.
So when a crisis happened (my husband diagnosed with terminal cancer) we went back to church. Still not as much as we should have, but with more regularity. The children are grown so it was just the two of us. I started looking forward to the services to start my week. It made my life better.
I’m telling you all this because this Easter Season is the first time I’ve gone to all the Lenten Services and I actually went to the Maundy Thursday service last night. This was the first time I’ve attended this service and it was very powerful for me; it made Christ hanging on the cross more real to me then it’s ever been. When we stripped the Altar of all the vestments, candles and flowers I felt like I wanted to cry. It was a very solemn thing.
I’m not only planning on attending all the services this weekend, but I’m looking forward to them. Tonight is the Good Friday Service and I have an open heart for what ever happens. There are two services on Sunday and I’m looking forward to both of them.
This is a change for me. This is different. If any of you think that all these services are a pain, you don’t have time, you don’t want to take that much time for church; I would tell you to take the time, go with an open heart and I believe your life would be changed.

Would you sacrifice your time and energy to attend all the services at your church?