Our worship during Lent has always been marked by a relative quietness and simplicity, allowing us to focus our hearts and minds on following in the way of Christ. You will notice the familiar service music from previous years, as well as the familiar lessons of the season. Our Flower Guild will mark our progress through Lent with altar arrangements that move from bare branches to buds to blossoms.
The most notable change in our Lenten experience this year will be the use of Rite One worship on Sunday mornings. This is not because Rite One is arguably more penitential or somber. Rather, it is because this form is an important part of our heritage as Episcopalians; it remains a part of our Book of Common Prayer, and we would be remiss to allow it to fall into such disuse that our children and newcomers to our tradition are not familiar with the beauty of its language and the depth of its expression of our faith. It doesn’t need to be relegated to an early morning service without music for “old-fashioned” Episcopalians! It belongs to us all. I hope that this five-week change will strike familiar chords with those reared on the 1928 prayer book. Above all, I hope that our younger members and those newer to our church will find in it enrichment of their faith and a deepening of their sense of our tradition and heritage. I will highlight a particular aspect of this rite in my notes and sermons each week.
On this first Sunday in Lent, we will begin with the Penitential Order. It begins with a responsorial version of the Decalogue. Then following a sentence of scripture, it concludes with the confession and absolution.
The lessons for this Sunday emphasize twin themes of Lent: patience and mercy. Patience is demonstrated in God’s continuing renewal of covenant with his people and in our own discernment, following Jesus’ way. Mercy is apparent in God’s dealing with Noah and in his sending of Jesus Christ to “suffer for sins once for all.” Even in Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness, the “angels waited on him.” As captured in Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ baptism, followed by his time in the wilderness and the beginnings of his ministry, again echo the themes of Lent: preparation for baptism and sharing the good news and concentration in examination of self.
I hope that you will be present this Sunday to participate in this beginning of a holy Lent.