Sad songs of wonder and joy

The slow songs of Lent grow on us when we understand they tell us of God’s love.

Nathan W. Strutz

I will be honest. Growing up, I really didn’t like Lent. We had to go to church two times in one week! And then one week we went three times in four days! And the hymns were so slow. They took forever. At least we would stop for a Shamrock shake after a midweek service or two.

But as I got older, I began to appreciate Lent, maybe even look forward to it. For one thing, I cannot escape my sin in Lent. The terrible, horrible, awful price is on full display. I caused the death of Jesus. I swung the whip. I put the nails in his hands. I joined the crowd and yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Going to church twice a week cannot pay for my crimes. Trying a little harder to be a little better will not fix my problem. Only Jesus can fix my problem. Only the blood of God’s own Son can pay for me. And would you believe God’s Son loved me so much, he paid—in full—for all my crimes?

All the details of all those special services focus on just how much Jesus loved me. Betrayed for a measly 30 silver coins by a good friend! Spit on. Blindfolded. Struck on the head—again and again and again. That’s how much Jesus loved me. He paid the price I owe. He died the death I deserved. He went through hell so I will never have to.

And those hymns! Yes, those slow hymns! Now they’re my favorites. Now I sing those verses all year round. You might agree with my wife that “Oh, Darkest Woe” is not the best choice for singing your children to sleep, but what more wonderful words than those from Lenten hymns can we impress on our children and on our own hearts?

“What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt his servant owe him,
Who would not know him” (Christian Worship [CW] 117:4).

“If you think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great,
Here you see its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed; See who bears the awful load—
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man of Son of God” (CW 127:3).

So yes, now I love Lent. I long for Lent. The six weeks go by too fast, and I don’t even get Shamrock shakes out of the deal anymore. I know it’s a hassle to drag children to church in the middle of the week. But I’m so glad my parents did. It’s so worth it to hear over and over, year after year, just how much Jesus loves me. To see just how much he endured for me.

And as the services continue, the days start to get longer. Did you know Lent actually comes from a word that means “lengthen”? It’s light a little bit longer. That’s because light is about to burst from the tomb. The grave is not the end. The empty grave is the victory! And it will be my victory too.

Easter is coming! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Nathan Strutz is pastor at Resurrection, a multisite ministry in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.


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Author: Nathan W. Strutz
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

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