(Proper acknowledgement: This is a good idea. But it’s not mine.)
This year, many Mennonite churches are using the theme “Becoming Human” to shape their worship services during lent. We are created in the image of God, but sin causes us to be less than human. And so, we look to Jesus as our example of how to become truly human.
In January, I attended the Lent planner at AMBS where they were sharing various ideas for worship during this season. Rebecca Slough suggested that we consider a hymn sing for one of our services. She proceeded to lead us in a selection of hymns that helped us reflect on the different ways in which we observe Jesus’ humanity.
Yesterday, I led such a service at our congregation and structured it in this way:
The Image of Jesus in the Prophets
The Image of Jesus in the Psalms
The Image of Jesus in the Gospels
The Image of Jesus on the Cross
Becoming the Image of Christ to One Another
Sent in the Image of Christ
I tried to follow the lectionary readings as closely as possible. The Old Testament reading was about David being anointed as king. I decided to replace that with a passage from Isaiah (“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…”). However, I kept the psalm (Psalm 23) and the gospel reading (John 9 – the blind man is healed). Each of these was included in the appropriate place, as well as one or two appropriate hymns. At various times throughout the morning, we sang a chorus entitled “¿Quién dicen que soy yo?” (Translation: “Who do you say that I am?” For you Mennos, it’s Sing the Story #51.) This song re-centered us on the theme for the morning – deepening and broadening our understanding of Jesus. (This idea also came from the Lent Planner.)
In addition to the singing and the readings, one person shared a faith story (as we’re doing every Sunday during Lent); there was a children’s story; and we had our usual time for congregational sharing. I was assisted by an incredible group of musicians whose contributions made everything flow smoothly.
This is an idea that could be used during any time of the year, but it works especially well when there is an appropriate theme (as we have now). From my biased perspective, the congregation found the service to be very meaningful.
For better or worse, when you pick the songs, you get to choose ones that are meaningful to you. There were two yesterday that especially reflected the way I think about faith, both from the “Sing the Story” hymnal.
The first is entitled “Helpless and Hungry” (StS #26). It was written to be in conversation with the Christmas carol “What child is this?” (and to be sung in conjunction with it). So we have questions such as, “Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?” And then we hear the response, “This, this is Christ the King…” Very powerful.
The second song was entitled “On The Journey to Emmaus” (StS #98). I think that what I appreciate about that song is summarized by the final line: the one “who welcomes the stranger shall welcome the Lord.”
Now – go plan yourself a hymn sing!