Jesus continues his ministry this month and we get caught up in the spiritual highs and lows.
This roller coaster ride is only a smaller version of Holy Week coming at the end of March, but the worship themes this month still offer a wide variety of entry points into the Gospel.
Jesus continues his ministry of healing which we began to see last month. On February 4th Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law then goes on to heal many and preach his message in the neighboring towns. The glorious vision of Jesus in dazzling white follows on February 11th, Transfiguration Sunday, but ends with Jesus’ confusing warning not to tell anyone what they had seen. We repel down the mountainside with Ash Wednesday, landing in the spiritual plain that is the first Sunday of Lent on Sunday, February 18th when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. Peter tries to rebuke Jesus for speaking of his own suffering, but in turn Peter is rebuked on February 25th bringing us to the close of a wide-ranging month.
Similar to last month, the appointed psalms for these Sundays also follow the themes closely. We sing of God’s healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds in Psalm 147 on the 4th and the Lord shines forth in glory in Psalm 50 on Transfiguration. We pray that God would give us clean hearts in Psalm 51 on Ash Wednesday and show us the way through the wilderness in Psalm 25 on the first Sunday of Lent. Finally, we pray Psalm 22 as Jesus speaks of his death. This psalm is often prayed on Maundy Thursday during the stripping of the altar and it’s use early in Lent reminds us that Holy Week is not far off.
The first part of this month we will lift our spirits by singing “On Eagle’s Wings” and on Transfiguration we break out “Oh, Wondrous Image, Vision Fair.” Singing this ancient tune from the 15th century always makes me feel as if I’ve tapped into something much larger than myself and the text is hard to beat:
With shining face and bright array,
Christ deigns to manifest today
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.
Having reached the plain, we turn to songs of comfort with Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service; Thy Holy Wings; and All My Hope on God Is Founded. Each of these reflects well the themes for their respective days and bear with them messages of hope and trust in the Lord’s ability to supply sufficient grace for all who would rely upon it.
This year, February is a month of ups and downs, but we know that God always comes to us in our times of need.
Although we would like to spend our lives on the spiritual mountaintop of Transfiguration, Jesus bids us go down the mountain. Rather than keep Jesus’ great love to ourselves, though, we are called to spread the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Consider the themes for this month as an invitation to let go of those things which keep you from Christ and to trust in the Lord’s work of salvation.