Primary Themes: congregational heart song, rest, silence, reflection, renewal, forgiveness, communal confession, contemplation, sung prayer (corporate and personal), forty days, life of Christ, abstinence, pilgrimage
Liturgical Symbols: Altar – purple fabrics from various cultures, water (a quiet waterfall), movement (liturgical dance, corporate),
If plants are included in dressing the altar, they should remind the congregation of the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent time praying to God while anticipating crucifixion (i.e. vines, dry stalks, wheat, large rocks. This provides the opportunity for the community to fully experience the contrast when the Easter lilies replace the garden.
Suggested Colors: Shades of Purple
Other Special Days:
Women’s History Month – March
International Women’s History Day – March 8
Death of John Wesley (1791) – March 2
World Day of Prayer – March 6
Scouting Sunday – (Alternate) – March 8 (see 436-437 Book of Worship)
UMCOR Sunday – March 22
Death of Charles Wesley (1788) – March 29
During the season of Lent, we are encouraged to engage in a Season of Selahs. Throughout the Book of Psalms, we encounter this Hebrew term at least seventy-one times. It even appears three times in Habakkuk. While the word has not been definitively defined in scripture, the placement of the word suggests a shift, pause, break, or interruption; it suggests exhaling or resting from routine activities. It is thought that the “Selah” functions much like a musical rest. This describes how we should understand our posture throughout the forty days of Lent. Christians are urged to refrain from business as usual in order to attend to the body, spirit, mind, soul, and heart. It is a time set aside for worshipers to connect their faith walk with the ways in which they live, move, and have their being throughout daily life. Thus, the trajectory for the Lenten journey is a renewed spirit and a genuine desire to become an incarnational presence in the world.
The Book of Psalms provides myriad examples of how these connections are made. Similarly, the African American Spiritual follows patterns that begin with suffering and end with positive, faith-filled notes of Glory, Hallelujah!! How is this possible? The African ancestors posit, “The Spirit will not descend without a song.” Song has always played a vital role in human life. In every part of history and/or cultural context, communities have depended upon a unique soundtrack; songs in the key of life that express a full range of human emotion:
- Trust/Lack of Trust
- Cries for Help, Love, Support
The apostle Paul encourages followers of Christ to . . . be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the [Creator} at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:18-20, NRSV).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God (Col 3:16, NRSV).
How important is song in your faith community?
How does song function in worship celebrations?
How does song serve to promote Selah-moments in worship?
What are the heart-songs of your faith community?
What songs best express or affect your relationship with God?
What songs help your corporate community pray?
Whose songs are missing from your community?
What songs help to promote the ethos of the beloved community?
Has the soundtrack of your congregation reached the ears of those beyond your sanctuary?
What role has song played in your local church’s discipleship efforts?
Season of Selahs
Throughout this Lenten season, seek ways to invite your congregation into conversations around the list of questions above.
Consider creating a congregational survey of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that represent the heart songs of your community. Using the top forty, invite members to use the list to help frame their forty-day’s journey through meditation, prayer, contemplation, conversation, silence, or song.
Second Week in Lent
In this week’s Lections, The Gospel of John points us toward the ritual of baptism, and the Baptismal Covenant (United Methodist Book of Worship, 106).
Call to Worship:
L: Dearly Beloved
P: The shadows are deep
But the Light is rising.
L: Dearly Beloved
Who will we be?
P: We’re water-washed and Spirit-born.
We’re anointed, beloved and free!
Heather Murray Elkins, Ó 2018, Used with permission.
Litany for International Women's History Day
Leader: In the beginning, God created Eve and called her “the mother of all.”
People: We remember Eve. We remember the finger of blame pointed at her, the pain it caused, and the abuse she has carried for generations. We also remember God’s promise that through her, salvation would come to the earth.
Leader: The story of the matriarchs includes the tale of Leah. Her father mistreated her; her husband hated her, and the strife between her and her sister was never settled.
People: We remember Leah. We remember how she was left a legacy of women having babes, trying to win the hearts of men. We also remember that God saw her plight and deemed her the mother of the tribe of Judah, whose praise we uplift.
Leader: The history of the church includes Hannah, a woman abused by church and society because of her inability to bear a child.
People: We remember Hannah. The first biblical prayer comes from Hannah as she petitioned God for a son. Hannah promised to give her child back to God. Samuel, her son, was the first prophet and priest. We also remember the pain of all women who long for children.
Leader: Rizbah is a name seldom called. She is the foremother of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks. Rizbah stands as a legendary figure for all women.
People: We remember Rizbah. We remember how she stood alone for five months, not only guarding her two sons, but five sons of others. She stood until God sent rain to refresh the land. The reign of justice in our world is due, in great measure, to women like her, who are bold enough to challenge injustice and stand alone.
Leader: We praise military leaders and applaud their mighty exploits. When we do, the name of Deborah must be uplifted!
People: We remember Deborah. We remember her hesitation in leaving her traditional and accepted roles of wife and mother to lead Israel into a winning battle. Onto the battlefield she went, her example encouraging all women to follow God into uncharted waters.
Leader: We remember the abused, neglected, and unnamed women, whose stories are important, though not often told.
People: We remember women. We remember those filled with fears and anxieties. We remember the hurt, the rejected, and the depressed. We remember those with broken dreams, crushed spirts, and aching hearts. Today, we pause to remember all women.
Leader: We remember the extraordinary women in our lives.
People: We remember our nurturers. We remember mothers, sisters, grandmothers, sister-mothers, community-mothers, church mothers, teacher-mothers and friend-mothers. We remember their sacrifices of love, hugs, food, care, and role modeling. We remember that they had painful experiences, unrealistic expectations, wounds of their own. They had high hopes, dreams, and visions of a day when their hearts could soar. Today, for we remember, with love and thanksgiving, all of who they are, all of who they are, Remember! Thanks be to God for Women!
Hollies, Linda H. Trumpet in Zion: Black Church Worship Resources, Year A. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2001), 70-71; transcribed by Cynthia A Wilson.