Whether you are a Catholic, a mainline Protestant, or an emergent Christian with an interest in ancient-future worship, Lent is upon us.
Lent is traditionally known as the forty-days (not including Sundays) preceding Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our Lord, and the climactic feast day on the Christian calendar. The Scriptural basis of this season stems from Jesus’ own forty days of wandering in the desert, where He was tempted by the devil, and resisted three times.
As the traditional hymn goes:
Lord, Who throughout these forty days
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins
And close by Thee to stay.
In much the same way, Christians today are called to fast, to sacrificially donate money and time to those in need, and to make concerted efforts to grow in holiness, notably in increased prayer-times and learning through reading Scripture and Christian classics.
Not all Christians abide by the same Christian calendar, and there are some who may resist the devotions that accompany a Lenten observance. I would hope that, wherever you are in your Christian walk, that charity towards those who choose to participate in the Lenten observance would be respected and honored. I know for myself that it has been a tremendous opportunity to put into practice Paul’s admonition to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; prove yourselves. Do you not know that the Holy Spirit resides in you?” (2 Cor 13:5a). In our consumer-driven culture, it is not easy to make time to practice fasting on a regular basis; Lent affords me the freedom to practice these Christian practices.
In regards to worship-leading, if your church—liturgically-based or not—has chosen to follow the Lenten observances, I would recommend a couple of things:
First of all, use Lent as an opportunity to explore different musical worship styles than you are accustomed to. Chant the Psalms, particularly Psalm 51. Explore Taize, which is Scriptural and beautiful. Unearth some classic Lenten hymns, and pick those hymns which speak best of the season (“Lord Who Throughout These Forty Days”, “The Glory of These Forty Days” and “Forty Days and Forty Nights”).
One of the great benefits of our current praise and worship scene is the rediscovery and new ways to implement the old hymns. But this rediscovery goes beyond the original hymns from which they were created. For example, “The Glory of These Forty Days” can be sung to the melody of “Old Hundredth” (Doxology). With this in mind, one can also incorporate David Crowder’s “Amen” chorus from the “Hymns: Ancient & Modern” collection, or the rousing chorus from the “New Doxology.” It truly depends upon the tone you wish to project, at the venue you would be playing at.
Secondly, double-check and make sure that whatever songs that you DO use, do not employ the use of the word “Alleluia” (or “Hallelujah”). It is a traditional practice to refrain from this common praise word until Easter Sunday–after which the Hallelujahs would break forth in abundance, over celebration of our Risen Savior.
Lastly, I think it would be a tragedy that, for those churches that choose to commemorate Lent, that the music director is not in sync with the Lenten vision. Sometimes I witness in liturgical churches a musical repertoire where the songs do not look any different from any other part of the church calendar. I suggest that the music team ought to make a concerted effort to re-earth songs that sing of personal dedication, of carrying one’s cross, of desiring holiness. Also, songs in a minor-key may be quite powerful, but they do not have to be a dirge.
Here’s a list of some popular praise choruses that can play very strongly during the Lenten Season:
- Refiner’s Fire (Brian Doerksen)
- Lord Have Mercy (Steve Merkel)
- Empty Me (Todd Agnew)
- Lay It Down (Matt Maher)
- Take Up Your Cross (John Michael Talbot)
- Take Up Our Cross (Curtis Stephan, profiled on spiritandsong.com)
- Desert Song (Brooke Fraser)
- Kyrie Eleison (Jodi Page Clark)
- What Grace Is Mine (Kristin Getty)
- Where You Go I’ll Go
- Empty Me (Chris Sligh)
- Praise You In This Storm (Casting Crowns)
Nick Alexander is a dynamic Catholic-Charismatic-Christian comedian/worship-leader/speaker. He has three comedy albums out, and is currently promoting his latest comedy video celebrating, (what else?), Lent.