Lent 2018 Worship Planning Series

First Sunday in Lent 2018, Year B

Heading into the wilderness, whether it’s imposed upon us or we voluntarily go, is only the first step in the rehab journey toward reconciliation, healing, and wholeness. But it is a step we must take to start the process of recovery.


Come Out the Wilderness (UMH 416)

You will quickly notice when singing this spiritual that the wilderness is a sought-after place of refining and connection with the living God. All the questions in this song relate to the effect of being in the wilderness (“How did you feel,” “Did you love everybody,” “Did your soul feel happy”), and we can assume that being in the wilderness is an intimate experience with God that causes us to be more loving. A number of approaches are possible, from a choral singing straight from the hymnal to a more bluesy, band-driven approach echoing a performance practice like this. A song leader is vital to singing this work, however, to move the congregation into the responses. If someone in your community is able to freely improvise in a call-and-response manner, make sure to use that person’s gifts by having him or her lead this song. It is also possible to maintain a stark contrast between the refrain and stanzas, and I suggest the refrain be quieter and gentler. However, a more wailing quality can also be appropriate. Read History of Hymns: "Come Out of the Wilderness" »

Desert Song (CCLI #5060793)

This poignant song from Hillsong in Australia effectively draws upon the imagery and metaphor of the desert and offers the words of praise in both times of desert and harvest. The rhythm of the verses is syncopated, but it is repetitive enough that it should be easily learned by the congregation. (The rhythm is very similar to the song “Days of Elijah,” if that is in your repertoire of congregational singing.) The possibility of teaching the congregation only the chorus is an option, but the verses are vivid with enough imagery that it would be best for the congregation to sing them as well. Accompaniment for this song can be as simple as a piano playing quarter-note chords underneath the melody or an acoustic guitar with a driving rhythm, or it can be as complex as a whole band. Whatever resources you have in your congregation can make this an accessible option for this First Sunday in Lent. The ideal key is B minor (relative to D Major).

Jesus, Tempted in the Desert (TFWS 2105)

EBENEZER is an ideal tune for use on this day, especially with this text by Herman Stuempfle, Jr. The hymn recalls the places in which Jesus was taken in the midst of his temptation and recreates the conversation between Jesus and the devil. The last stanza is the opportunity for the congregation to live into the text, consider what temptation is in today’s context, and pray for strength to withstand the tempter. Because of the length of the phrases and the pulse needed, the tune allows for a good deal of time to be spent in reflection upon this text. Make note, however, that this hymn takes longer to sing than other 87.87 D tunes, so plan accordingly. It has a march-like quality that can also be interpreted as defiant, but be sure to interpret each stanza so the accompaniment can vary. This will allow the narrative quality of the hymn to shine through, and it will keep the congregation from focusing on how long it takes to sing the hymn. The best accompaniment is by organ or another keyboard instrument, but the starkness of the wilderness can also be created by singing at least one stanza with the only accompaniment being a hand drum (use the rhythm found in the melody of the first measure - half note/quarter-note triplet/half note/half note - as a repetitive rhythm) and solo wind instrument on the melody. Bring all the instruments together on the final stanza. Read History of Hymns: "Jesus, Tempted in the Desert" »

Beautiful Things (CCLI #5665521)

Moving into Lent, this is a good time for people to hear the good news that God makes “beautiful things out of the dust… out of us.” The simplicity of the tune longs for a simple accompaniment as well. If you are familiar with Gungor’s original recording, you will note that it begins with a piano, guitar, and cello. This would be a beautiful accompaniment throughout if desired. Full band can be used, but don’t feel like you have to use all the instruments all the time. Find ways to show creativity with the instrumentation you have within your church. Also, make note that the best key for this song is D. However, the original melody leaps an octave in the second chorus, which is far too high for a congregation to sing. Though the timbre will be different, you can accomplish the same effect by having a bass-clef voice on the stanzas and opening choruses before the leap, and then supplement with a mezzo treble voice at the leap. When a congregation hears a male voice singing that high, the immediate thought is, “I can’t sing that,” and the voice oftentimes shuts down instead of continuing singing an octave lower. A female voice in the same frequency range assures the congregation that it is ok to not strain and leave the voice in a lower range when singing.

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me (UMH 521)

A Lenten favorite among many congregations, “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” is a spiritual that has a wailing character that seems to embody the desolation found in the Scripture this week. This hymn would be sung very slowly in many African American settings, and we encourage its use in that style. It has, however, also been used slightly faster when sung with a band as a blues option. Just make sure the tempo is not too brisk; it still needs to have a lamenting quality (“When my heart is almost breaking”). Accompany with an organ, piano, acoustic guitar, or band. You may also choose to adapt the time signature from 4/4 to 12/8 to offer a slow, swing version that has a bluesy pulse and character.

Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days (UMH 269)

We have left the mountain, and we are beginning the move toward the season of Lent. This song and the liturgy surrounding it serve as connection points to move us forward to a time when we will be formed as part of the Lenten journey. LAND OF REST is a brilliant American folk melody, and it would be best accompanied here by a simple accompaniment of piano or arpeggiated guitar alone. There is almost a longing tone to the tune, so be sure to use a gentle, rocking tempo. This is possible in a slower 6/4 or a quicker pace like a 6/8. Read History of Hymns: "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days" »

Forty Days and Forty Nights

This new hymn by Discipleship Ministries’ own Taylor Burton-Edwards, places Jesus’ wilderness story in the context of the greater Scriptural narrative with other notable biblical figures who were known for waiting on God–Noah, Moses, and Elijah. The melody and setting are easily learned and singable, and the accompaniment is characterized by a Klezmer-ish quality of longing. When playing, make sure there is more emphasis on the first beat of each measure, but don’t play so fast as to make it a quick waltz. When arriving at the last line, approach the music with more rubato leading into the D.C., and move the tempo forward again when repeating to the refrain. In the spirit of Klezmer, adding a violin and clarinet might be a great addition! [A link to the score is forthcoming]