The Why and What of Lent

By Greg Gardner

Friends, if you have been in a liturgical church tradition for a time, you may have noticed the change of tone and tenor during the liturgical season of Lent- the gradual progression away from the familiar lightness and joy in worship, and towards the seemingly more stark and solemn.  If we are attentive, we will notice the occasional lack of harmony and the increased dissonance in the worship music. If we allow, we are pulled into the emotions and experience of this time of solemnity and foreboding, and become participants in the drama of Jesus’s walk towards the cross- Imperial Rome’s frequently used instrument of humiliation and execution for those who might challenge its oppressive, law-and-order authority. Moreover, we reenact and join along side Jesus in his journey to unjust suffering and execution. We identify with his feelings of fear, abandonment and forsakenness, and we are challenged to identify with Jesus’s loyal followers as they, too, fell away in fear and despair. 

In the Lenten liturgy (literally, the work of God’s people in worship) we are invited to more closely recognize and acknowledge our discontent, irritability, discomfort, as well as the dissonance in our lives and in the world. During this intentional time of self-examination, we lament the places where we are broken, where shame, guilt and cynicism may have bound us, and where we have strayed from the difficult, yet life-giving example of Jesus. Then we turn from it, change direction and we petition our faithful God for strength, help and mercy. 

But wait. Isn’t the Gospel of Jesus good news? And here again is Lent, from the Old English word len(c)ten, meaning “spring season.” In our stillness and attentiveness, we begin to see more clearly the approaching light of spring, remembering the temporariness of the present moment. We anticipate the Easter, the Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), and our rescue- God’s definitive YES that defeats those whose crass voices shout, “Give up. We have been abandoned and all is lost!”

The Lenten liturgy, the words we sing, say and pray, invite us to leave the seemingly safe space of our heads, to unclench our grip on our finite lives and our limited intellect, to step beyond our illusion of control, and to enter the seemly risky space of uncertainty and mystery. 

What Lent is most properly about is an effort to become more aware of the attitudes and behaviors that keep us from living the life God gives us in the way God desires of us, the way of life we know best from the example of Jesus, and the effort to form new attitudes and new behaviors that will help us follow more closely the way of Jesus.

And WE do this together, with our living God’s help, empowered by God’s ever-present Spirt, and with the support and encouragement of each other. This is indeed Good News. 

Looking Forward: Ash Wednesday

By: Greg Gardner

We once again observe Ash Wednesday with a service in which we make the sign of the cross with ashes on one another’s foreheads. For much of Christian history, the one imposing the ashes would say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Those words reinforced very powerfully the traditional focus of Ash Wednesday and Lent, which was the reality that our lives are very finite, and that in order to be prepared for death we should repent of our sins.

Lenten practice for a very long time involved some form of fasting — for some by not eating or drinking anything at least one day a week, for others by giving up a particular food, beverage, or other enjoyable thing for the duration of the forty-day season.

More recently, however, “Lenten discipline” for many people has shifted away from giving up something one usually enjoys and toward doing something one has not done before, or not done as consistently as one could and should, especially things that are of help to others — using the forty days of Lent to form positive habits that continue throughout one’s life.

This approach is strongly supported by verses from Isaiah 58 which we read at the beginning of our Ash Wednesday service, with the prophet speaking for the HOLY ONE:

My people ask of me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near to God:

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” …
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see them naked, to clothe them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

What Lent is most properly about is an effort to become more aware of the attitudes and behaviors that keep us from living the life God gives us in the way God desires of us, the way of life we know best from the example of Jesus, and the effort to form new attitudes and new behaviors that will help us follow more closely the way of Jesus.

There is more to be said about and discovered in the symbolism of ashes, the sign of the cross, and the meaning and purpose of Lent. So let’s give this a shot, journeying, searching and wrestling together.

The Second Sunday in Lent

We begin and prepare for worship by centering ourselves, remembering the waters of baptism.

In baptism, we are joined to Christ and made members of one body, a people seeking to live faithfully into God’s purpose for us and for all creation.

PRELUDE

*CALL TO WORSHIP  Psalm 27:7-9, 13-14

Hear, O God, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
            “Come,” my heart says, “seek God’s face!”
Your face, O God, do I seek.
            Do not hide your face from me.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of God
in the land of the living.
            Wait for the Holy One;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
            wait for the Holy One!

*HYMN 450  Be Thou My Vision  SLANE

*INVITATION TO CONFESSION

Come, all who have inflicted or accepted oppression—
we share in the world’s sin.  
Come, all who make distinctions among people—
we participate in the brokenness of God’s family.  
Come, all who respond to the false voices of the world—
God is calling us away from our former limitations.

*PRAYER OF CONFESSION+

Hope Beyond All Human Hope,
you promised descendants as numerous as the stars
to Abraham and Sarah.
You promise light and salvation
in the midst of darkness and despair,
and promise redemption to a world that does not listen.
Gather us to yourself in tenderness,
open our ears that we may listen to your word,
and teach us to live faithfully
as people confident of the fulfillment of your promises.
We ask this in the name of Christ Jesus,
your Beloved One. Amen.

Silent confession.

*CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE  Kyrie Eleison

A copy of this response can be found on the seat of your pew.

*ASSURANCE OF GRACE

God’s grace is as vast as the stars in the sky.
The next time you go outside at night, look upward –
the beautiful, mysteriousness of God’s loving-kindness
is around you, and it is meant to be explored.

Believe the Good News of the Gospel.
In Jesus Christ we are loved and befriended by God.

*PASSING OF THE PEACE

Since we have been reconciled to God, let us also be reconciled to one another.

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

The congregation is invited to exchange signs of peace.

*CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE  Hymn 435, verse 1

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgement given.

SCRIPTURE READING  Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us, thanks be to God.                      

SERMON                
On Counting Stars                  Jenny Cook

*HYMN 50  Deep in the Shadows of the Past  SHEPHERDS’ PIPES

PRAYERS OF SUPPLICATION AND INTERCESSION

O God, in your loving kindness,
Hear our prayer

INVITATION TO THE OFFERING

OFFERING

*DOXOLOGY  Hymn 223, verse 4

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.

(The prayer continues.)

The prayer concludes by singing the Casa del Sol Prayer of Jesus.  A copy of this can be found on the seat of your pew.

*HYMN 543  O Christ, Surround Me  GREEN TYLER

*DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

*Please rise in body or in spirit.
+Adapted from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers,
copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts*


The Session of the Church:

Class of 2019: Mark Taylor, Brett Withers
Class of 2020: Alan Stephenson, Tom Eldridge
Class of 2021: Greg Gardner, Heidi Hall
Melinda Sanders, Moderator

We thank those who served in and prepared for worship today:

Jenny Cook, Preacher
Jeff Moles, Director of Music Ministries
Eliza Blades,Liturgist
Todd Moore and Cliff Mundy, Offering Takers
Scott Sauers, Special Music

Woodland Presbyterian Church is an inclusive community of faith seeking to share God’s love for all Creation, welcoming everyone to full and equal participation in the church without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, seeking to embody in our lives the love of God embodied in Christ Jesus.

Announcements

A Note on Lent

During the 40-day season of Lent, the words we sing, say and pray invite us to leave the seemingly safe space of our heads, to unclench our grip on our finite lives and our limited intellect, to step beyond our illusion of control, and to enter the seemly risky space of uncertainty and mystery.

In sum, Lent is an invitation to honest self-examination and to becoming more aware of the attitudes and behaviors that keep us from living the life God gives us in the way God desires of us and as revealed in the life, teachings and example of Jesus Christ. The word “lent” itself comes from the Old English work len(c)ten, meaning “spring season,” thus, through the stillness and attentiveness we prioritize in this season, we begin see more clearly the approaching light of spring and the promise of renewal and resurrection.


Join us for our Lenten book study on Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. Co-led by Jenny Cook and Meredith Cox, we will meet the next four Sundays at 9:45am in the Assembly Room.  In this book, Taylor explores the breadth of a spirituality that includes darkness. As we journey through the Lent season, we, too, will dive into a more textured spirituality through Taylor’s words, emerging with her at Easter to find new life—even through the dark!


The East Nashville Training Hub:

In this chapter of Woodland’s life together, our church is engaged in an innovative partnership called the East Nashville Training Hub. The Training Hub, made up of mostly young adults, carry much of the day-to-day responsibilities for the church, including preaching and worship planning, service and fellowship events, and children’s ministry.  We are grateful for the energy, creativity, and engaging wisdom of this team!

Third Sunday in Advent

Welcome to Woodland! We’re glad you’re joining us this morning. Take a look at this week’s announcements, and be sure to fill out the visitor card at woodlandnash.org/bulletin.

You’re invited to rise in body or spirit for items in the bulletin marked with an asterisk*, and respond with the congregation for text that is bold. For now, sit back and relax as we begin the service.

Gathering

Prelude

Deanie Richardson & Melissa DuPuy

*Call to Worship

Rejoice in the Holy One always; again, I will say, rejoice.

Let your gentleness be to known to everyone,
for the Holy One is near.

For the Spirit of God is upon us, because the Holy One
has called us to bring good news to the oppressed.

Let your joy be known to everyone,
for the Holy One is near.

Lighting of the Candles

…like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with
joy and singing.

Come, Christ Jesus, Come!

*Hymn #106

Prepare the Way, O Zion

*Prayer of Confession

Holy God,
In ways that are sometimes very strange,
but more often quite ordinary,
you call us to active participation
in your continuing redemption of all Creation.
But we often refuse to accept our role
in bringing about such redemption.
Help us embrace the encouraging conviction
that your Spirit is slowly but surely bringing to us
and to all humankind
the full measure of your own grace and peace;
and help us live with hope toward a day
when your love for all Creation is embodied
as fully in us as it is in Christ Jesus,
your Beloved One. Amen.

Silent Confession

*Hymn #90

Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, be strong; take heart! (Repeat all 3x)

*Assurance of Grace

In this season of waiting, the Good News is this: mercy,
new life, hope, and joy are the gifts we receive from our God.

Thanks be to the God of Advent, who is with us now and always, and who will come again in glory! Amen.

*Passing of the Peace

Since we have hope in the peace of Christ, let us love one another.

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

The congregation is invited to exchange signs of peace.

*Congregational Response

Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Encountering

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 12:2-6,
Luke 3:7-18

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us, Thanks be to God.

Sermon

“How Can I Participate?”

Born and raised in Nashville, Emily Martin graduated from Furman University where she earned a degree in Sociology & Studio Art, served as a mentor for middle school girls, and spent summers working with the youth group at First Presbyterian Church and Daystar Counseling Ministries.


For the last year, she has been working as an executive recruiter with Elevation Search Solutions helping emerging market companies build out their teams.

*Hymn #109

“Blest Be the God of Israel”

Responding

Prayers of Supplication and Intercession

O God, in your loving kindness,
Hear our prayer.

The Offering

Deanie Richardson & Melissa DuPuy

*Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures high and low
Praise God in Jesus fully known
Creator, Word, and Spirit, one.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Service of Ordination and Installation

Today, we celebrate Brett Withers being ordained and installed as well as Greg Gardner and Heidi Hall being installed.

Pastor: There are varieties of gifts, but it is the same Spirit who gives them.
There are different ways of serving God, but it is the same Lord who is served.
Pastor: God works through each person in a unique way, but it is God’s purpose that is accomplished.
To each is given a gift of the Spirit to be used for the common good.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts,
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
(The prayer continues.)

Silent meditation.

We give thanks to you in all things, O God, as we pray
together saying:

Our Father-Mother, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins of others. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

*Hymn #105

People, Look East

*Dismissal & Postlude