17 February 2010

For the Living of These Days

The season lasts 40 days - not counting Sundays - and is set apart by many in the church, for reflection, prayer, and even fasting. The design is that our Easter worship might be informed by a richer understanding of what it took for Jesus to do this mighty work for us.

There is nothing explicitly "biblical" about observing Lent. That is to say, we are never instructed to set aside these days. Of course, there is ample biblical example that has prompted Christians in many times and places to observe "40 days." (And not only "those liturgical types," either! Some of you will recall Chapel of the Air's call to 40 days; Campus Crusade's Bill Bright and his 40 day fasts; and Rick Warren's purpose driven 40 days.) Whether your spiritual disciplines change at all during these weeks leading up to Easter is, ultimately, immaterial. What is of importance for us all is that we never enter the Easter season assuming life and worship "as usual."

So beginning today, Ash Wednesday for some, Knowing the Score will highlight hymns that highlight the 40 days. May these biblical reflections in poetry (and melody) prepare our hearts for the grand celebration we will enjoy together on April 4.

The glory of these forty days
we celebrate with songs of praise;
for Christ, through whom all things were made,
himself has fasted and has prayed.
   Alone and fasting Moses saw
   the loving God who gave the law;
   and to Elijah, fasting, came
   the steeds and chariots of flame.
So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
delivered from the lions' might;
and John, the Bridegroom's friend,
became the herald of Messiah's name.
   Then grant us, Lord, like them to be
   full oft in fast and prayer with thee;
   our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
   and give us joy to see thy face.
O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
to thee be every prayer addressed,
who art in three-fold name adored,
from age to age, the only Lord.
Latin hymn "clarum decus jejunii (10th century)
translated Maurice F. Bell, 1906; alt.
Long Meter text; set to the tune ERHALT UNS, HERR

Historically, we fail to see that Lent, and its culmination on Good Friday, is in Jesus' view "glory." I appreciate how this text takes us into the season not as mourners, but as those perceiving glory, and giving praise.

Sing on!

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