Note: It’s been forever since I’ve done one of these. I’m perfectionist enough that I want to have the set lists and I’ve had trouble getting them sent to me on a regular basis.
- Officiant: Fr. Dave (me)
- Preacher: Fr. Dennett
- Music: Ben leading a team of 5 (3 vocals, 1 acoustic guitar, 1 keyboard, 1 drummer)
- Scripture: Martha (Genesis 9:8-17 and Psalm 25), Dcn. Andrea (Mark 1:9-13),
Songs of Praise
- Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer
- Lord, I Need You
- Your Love, O Lord
- Exodus XV
- Behold the Lamb
- Before the Throne of God Above
- Nothing but the Blood of Jesus
Collect for the Day
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
I opened, welcoming everyone and reminding us of God’s promise to give us grace in the season of Lent. We continued with the liturgy for Lent 1 by following the opening acclamation and collect for purity with the responsive prayers of the Decalogue in place of the Summary of the Law. One of the effects of the Ten Commandments in prayer is that we have admit that our hearts aren’t in the disposition for repentance and renewal, and by responding to these “ten words” with “Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law”, we do a radical work of self-examination that we follow up with the general confession (in Lent, drawn from the daily office).
One of the practices of Church of the Savior is that we use the “non-absolution absolution” for Lent. This extended statement instructs us about God’s desire for repentance, instruction that ministers declare God’s forgiveness, and expresses confidence in God’s pardon for all the repentant by the Gospel, and so concludes with a prayer that God “give us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that our present deeds may please him, and the rest of our lives be pure and holy…” The teaching value of this statement of pardon (because it has no moment of absolution pronounced) highlights the importance of the Comfortable Words. In this case, the Comfortable Words themselves are not only the Scriptural basis for our forgiveness, but they enact that forgiveness by being announced.
After the Comfortable Words, our music team leader, Ben, invited us to entire a period of silence, to prepare our hearts and to attend to what the Holy Spirit was doing our midst. The songs that we sang were reflective, drawing us to trust in God’s righteousness and holiness, and to have confidence in the work of Christ as our sin was exposed. In the silence that followed, many sat or knelt–aware of the holiness of the moment and what God was doing in our midst. I concluded with the collect for the day.
I invited the kids forward to be prayed for and dismissed for Church School. I questioned them briefly about Lent, which garnered responses about me wearing purple and Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness. Knowing they were going to be hearing about God’s covenant with Noah (just like the rest of the congregation), I challenged them to be ready to hear about God’s promises to us as we follow Jesus, and then prayed and dismissed them.
Martha read the account of God’s covenant with Noah and all creation. She helpfully prefaced the congregational prayer of Psalm 25 by offering testimony that in times of distress, she has seen God respond to this psalm and that it is a source of comfort and strength that God hears when we pray it. It is hard, sometimes, for us to remember that the psalms are placed in the Ministry of the Word as a responsive prayer to the Scriptures read, and not as “more content to hear.” Her introduction/invitation confronted that directly. Deacon Andrea’s reading of the Gospel lesson about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness highlighted that God was going before us in all of this.
Fr. Dennett’s sermon focused us into the season of Lent by looking at the basis for Jesus’ endurance and presence in the wilderness: relationship to God. The fast of Lent is not something we do to earn, to act, to win, but solely on the basis of a relationship that God has initiated with His creation. Jesus’ relationship with the Father–which is what the devil questions and seeks to disrupt–exists before the wilderness, and persists in the wilderness, and Jesus’ triumph is not ours to follow, but a gift which he gives us. So, when we fast (quoting the sermon on the mount), we can do so because of Jesus’ triumph. We will fail. We will continue to repent. We will continue to pray. But Jesus has won and that is the basis of our covenant relationship with God. He further invited us as a congregation to pray for more to recognize the relationship God is initiating in their lives as we minister in Ambridge.
We followed the sermon with the Creed, and then parish announcements. What I noticed in this time was we were inviting people into a lot of things in this service. In addition to all the things worship already had invited us to, the announcements extended several more invitations: to participate in providing for our monthly outreach meal on the last Sunday of the month, to give for the completion of our sanctuary (wall finishing, painting, molding, and flooring are all in need of work and look very much “work in progress” at the present time), to coffee hour, to receive prayer during Holy Communion, and then the offertory sentence to “resume” worship. Practically, this time often allows Church School and nursery workers to return to the worship before we begin the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but as I reflect on all these invitations, I feel overwhelmed by them–and it was only my job to share most of them, not be responsible for them. The question for me, is when I’m leading the worship of God’s people, can there be freedom to discern what it is that God is inviting us to and silence all others while still providing logistical details where needed? I’m not positioned to change this parish’s practice in this, but it’s worth considering.
The Offertory and Holy Communion (we are continuing the trial draft of the ACNA Ancient Rite for Lent) did enable us to return to that state of simply being in the presence of our holy God, fully aware of our unworthiness, but equally aware of Jesus’ work on our behalf. The song “Before the Throne of God Above” expressed that confidence with power. Behind that awareness, however, was the buzz and expectation of action (I think prompted by the many, many invitations that had been presented in the service). What did we not hear for all that, I wonder? I’m blessed by the spiritual “activism” of this parish and their eagerness to respond to God and His Word. I’m just wondering what we might do to better “tarry” in the context of worship (to borrow from my Pentecostal heritage). If worship is a Trinitarian activity, there’s value in the beholding, and not being so quick to answer. God help us to answer, but to also wait for You.