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.
Third Week in Lent
Prayer of the People
These Hands: A Prayer
(People stand, hands over chest.)
We take a few deep breaths.
(Pause for at least three breaths. Then make fists and raise them line by line.)
We live in a time of clenching fists:
In anger that threatens,
In greed that clutches,
in worry and fear that tense and tighten.
This is no way to live.
(Open hands and thrust them outward, as if breaking chains.)
And so, we let go.
We take a few deep breaths.
(Pause. Lower hands, palms open, facing upward, raising them line by line.)
Our hands are empty.
We acknowledge our powerlessness.
We are not in control.
We are but humble protagonists in your great story of love.
We receive your grace that heals, forgives, and liberates.
This is the way to live.
And so, we open our hands, our hearts, our minds, our doors.
We take a few deep breaths.
(Facing palms outward, raise them line by line.)
We extend our hands in blessing.
As we have been blessed, so we bless.
We hold no weapons and make no threats.
We seek peace with all and we make peace for all.
It is better for us to give than to receive.
Make us instruments of your peace, Living God.
We surrender our lives to your purposes.
May your Spirit fill our lives and work through these hands.
(Pause, hands pressed together over heart.)
We open our eyes.
We see your light in one another:
a flickering candle in the dark,
a quiet glow at dawn,
a rising sun for this new day.
We call forth that light in one another,
And we honor one another with these hands.
May the peace of Christ rise in you.
(People silently turn and honor one another, praying a silent blessing over each other.)
Brian McLaren in Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God by Mark Gregory Karris, QUOIR, 2018, pp. 198-9. Used with permission.