One of the themes and tasks of the Lent period is that of making ourselves right with God – of becoming more open channels for God’s presence in the world. It is a period when the idea of “giving up” something is, like regular fasting, designed to help focus our attention on God’s dream for us and the world. It is also a time when we might consider more deeply how well we look after our minds, our bodies and our world in the cause of making that divine dream real for all humankind. See Resources for Lent 2017.
Within Singing the Faith there are hymns and songs other than those included within the Lent section (StF 234 – 241) that may be of value during the six weeks of Lent. We’ve slected a few below. Maybe this is also a good time to explore ways of using hymns as prayer, including one example from the Revd Andy Murphy, designed around Dear Lord and Father of mankind (StF 495).
Ruth Duck’s Sacred the body God has created (StF 618) reminds us that we are all made in the image of God and so, because of that, our bodies are holy. So are our differences from each other. She paints a picture of love in action that echoes the example of Jesus as he makes his way towards Jerusalem and his trial before Herod and Pilate: “Love touches gently, never coercing. / Love leaves the other with power to choose.”
Ruth concludes with a prayer: “Holy of holies, God ever loving, / make us your temples; indwell all we do.” The text is set to a lovely lilting melody by W. Daniel Landes, particularly suitable for a guitar or keyboard led accompaniment.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is worth exploring the Advent section of Singing the Faith (StF 165 – 189), for here themes are explored that also have their place in Lent. Take, for example, Jan Berry’s Praise to the God who clears the way (StF 183). Here is a text that echoes the commands of John the Baptist and the Hebrew prophets but with words that describe well Jesus’ mission and – as his disciples – ours too. If Lent, like Advent, is a time of getting ourselves ready for God, then God shows us clearly how to go about the task:
Praise to the God who clears the way
preparing room and space;
for power and pride will lose their sway
as peace comes in their place.
Within the context of Lent, our task is seemingly transformed in verse 3 into a hymn of Easter hope : “Praise to the God who waits with us / for hope and joy to reign”.
Many will be familiar with Joy Dine’s hymn, God who sets us on a journey, now included on this website in Latest Hymns. It is a hymn that sits well with the idea of a Lent journey – something that many of us undertake by means of a weekly Bible study or other spiritual discipline. The hymn also offers a helpful reflection on the idea of “giving up” something for Lent:
…let us travel light, discarding
excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential,
choosing treasure that will last.
Joy’s hymn can be sung to a number of familiar tunes with the metre 87 87 D, including “Blaenwern” (StF 503) and “Austria” (StF 301).
If you want to look further afield, try the excellent Wild Goose publication The Courage to Say No: 23 songs for Lent and Easter (also recorded on CD). Included here is another song that takes up the image of Lent as a journey – “Travelling the road to freedom” – and also “Love which understands”, with its central idea that, “for Jesus, caring was not just a matter of doing but also a matter of preparing through prayer and reflection”:
Oh Jesus Christ, in human flesh
you practised heaven’s care,
besieged by need, betrayed by greed,
sustained by faith and prayer.”
This essay by a church music student in The United Methodist Reporter offers a short account of the meaning of Lent, focussing on Brian Wren’s Ash Wednesday hymn: “Dust and ashes touch our face, / mark our failure and our falling.”
Finally, the Lent section of Singing the Faith itself opens with a short response by John Bell – Behold the Lamb of God (StF 234). This is ideal for use as a recurring sung response to prayers of confession and / or intercession throughout the season of Lent.
It’s worth exploring the Liturgical Settings at the back of the book (StF 749 – 790) for other examples, including Jesus, remember me (StF 777), from the Taizé Community, and Dinah Reindorf’s catchy Kyrie eleison (StF 751), with its gentle jazz inflections – ideal for use when children are present.