In the ways I don’t like Lent, it‘s a near-perfect morning. I’m out jogging late enough that the sun should be above the southeast horizon – which I’m sure it is – bringing its golden yellow to the sky, or at least doing some fabulous sailor-take-warning pink and orange illumination of random clouds. But as if the sun has received a heavy imposition of ashes, and with the total cloud cover producing a “rain-mist”, one can only say it’s not exactly night time. Many if not all the trees still resemble our Lenten floral arrangement at church – the only one during the whole year I feel like I might be able to do myself – stark, bare branches, reaching up for – something, on a grey, wet, unwelcoming morning.
Honestly, I still think of Lent this way as it approaches. We get maybe three good exhales after Jesus’s birthday party, and then someone says: You know, Lent is in two weeks. Really? Really? I’m sorry, I’m not ready to feel bad about myself, he mumbles resentfully.
So I walk into the season with more of a smoldering chip on my shoulder than ash on my face – but I am surprised and grateful for the emphases I am finding at GPPC. The sermons are about coming closer to God. There is the image of resting my head on Jesus’s chest, of listening for the heartbeat of God. In our Sunday School class on Sabbath time, there is the suggestion of creating daily quiet, and finding peace and calm in the sound of bells or even in the invitation to rest offered by a stoplight. Less about being bad, more about loving God.
And then there is GPPC’s Lenten secret weapon: music. Self-reflection and longing are the foundation of many spirituals from the African-American tradition – these are almost always my favorites to sing with the choir. (Here is “Steal Away” from a recent Sunday.) We will sing George Herbert’s simple but profound poem on love and grace in a choral setting that I feel matches the lyrics for beauty. And there are wonderful, poignant hymns for our whole congregation of fabulous singers! Listen to the sound when Doug sneaks the organ out of a verse (Someone’s singing, Lord…) of “Kum Ba Yah”.
I am grateful for our worship leaders, Carla, Doug, Karen, and Shelby, guiding us through this traditionally muted season with suggestions and urgings to come closer to the God who loves us, who accepts us, who holds us in quiet reflection – the same God to whom we give the glory in our singing, running, breathing, and loving one another.
Oh, and bonus: the sun has come out!
Alfred Walker is both a wonderful singer and a terrific writer. We’re grateful for both of those gifts!