Note – Some weeks ago I was asked to write a short reflection on Lent by the Rev. Laurel Dahill, rector of St. Mary’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church, where my family I worship. The following was printed as a bulletin insert this morning.
We are deep into Lent now. The triumphal procession that begins Palm Sunday is still weeks away, and that offers us only the briefest respite before the agony of the Passion and the solemnity of Holy Week. It’s fitting that the readings for today, then, are reminders that God will see us through whatever dark times lie before us and bring us into a brighter day of joy, love, acceptance, and grace.
In Joshua the people of Israel finally enjoy the abundance of the land of Canaan after years of wandering the wilderness with only God’s mercy to keep them going. In Psalm 32 the psalmist reminds us that the Lord will preserve us in times of trouble, and will surround us with cries of deliverance. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that through Christ all things become new. And in the Gospel, Luke gives us the Parable of the Prodigal Son, reminding us that even when we have hit rock bottom love and acceptance are ours for the asking.
For many years now I have sung from The Sacred Harp, a book of American hymns, many of which date back to the early 1700s. Many of those songs have a Lenten sensibility, that while our trials may seem overwhelming, through Christ light and life await us on the other side.
Hard as it can be to remember, Lent reminds us that like the Israelites, we too will one day enter the land of Canaan. Isaac Watts wrote the following words in 1707, and they are put to music in several different hymns in The Sacred Harp:
Oh! could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes.
Could we but climb where Moses stood
And view the landscape o’er
Not Jordan’s stream nor death’s dark flood
Should fright us from the shore.