This article is a continuation of a series (beginning with parts one and two) which looks to explore how God is at work among God’s people from the lens of the prescribed old testament readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Making promises, providing in times of need, and raising up leaders from unexpected places all feature in these readings. How might these readings – and our accompanying songs – carry forward into how we view God’s relationship with us today? In this article we’ll explore some themes for the third Sunday in Lent.
On March 15th we’ll hear an unusual story about Moses striking a rock and water flowing out. Not unusual is that the people Moses is leading, the Israelites, are complaining about their situation. It seems Moses is always chastising the people for testing their God. Of course, God the sources of all blessings never lets the people down. God provides food in the desert, water for the people and continues to bless us today with the necessities for life.
In the first week of Lent, the Adam and Eve were in paradise, but fell from grace. Last week, God sent Abram into the wilderness to be a blessing to all the people. This week, the people of Israel are in the wilderness after the Exodus attempting to make ends meet. This progression seems to be pulling the people farther and farther away from God. Yet, God always seems to be with the people, providing for them, no matter what wildernesses they find themselves in. Let’s see how this week’s traditional hymns help us to proclaim and tell the story of God’s steadfastness.
Music and Worship
We gather today by singing Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The first verse of this hymn turns our minds on to the promise of watery hope. The fount of every blessing tunes our hearts to sing and streams of mercy call for songs of praise. We proclaim in the second verse that we will raise our Ebenezer in the kingdom of God. Ebenezer literally means stone of help, foreshadowing what we are about to hear in the old testament. We proclaim in this hymn that God is a rock-solid provider.
Our hymn of the day is As the Deer Runs to the River. Though a somewhat less familiar hymn, the text of this hymn retells the story of water from the rock in the second verse. We are also pulling together themes from the Gospel reading which tells the story of the woman at the well. That is, we may be weary and parched, but coming to the river of God’s grace will never disappoint. Remembering that Lent has traditionally been a time of preparation for baptism at Easter Vigil, the water imagery we find throughout Lent is especially appropriate.
We finish the day singing I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say. In this hymn text, Jesus speaks in the first half, and the second half is the result of his message. In the second verse of this hymn we directly recount the story and feelings from the Gospel reading when we sing, “Behold, I freely give the living water, thirsty one; stoop down and drink and live” followed by “I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.” Jesus freely gives living water to quench our thirsts and when we drink of it, we begin a new life in him.
The message of today is clear from the content of the hymns: when we are parched or dry, God will provide the water we need to keep going. Or to put it differently, we alone are not capable of providing all our needs and we must rely on and trust in God to give us what we truly need. We may believe we can care for ourselves, but it is God who ultimately provides the necessities for life and for salvation. Yes, though we have been talking about actual physical water, this whole day we have really been singing about salvation and grace freely given.
Until next Thursday, may God’s grace wash over you like a living stream.