Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in God’s holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false and do not swear deceitfully. – Psalm 24:3-4
I’m what they call a “manuscript preacher.” I write my sermons word-for-word. At the same time, there are moments when I go “off-book,” as happened last Sunday during our YouTube worship. I found myself comparing Psalm 130’s “song of ascents”—which ancient Israel sang as it climbed the Temple Mount for festival worship—to our own Lenten ascent to Calvary.
The parallels never occurred to me before, although I suspect I’m hardly the first person to make the connection. If you’ve not yet caught up with Sunday’s worship, you should, and I’ll take care to avoid any spoilers here. But ever since that moment during the sermon, I’ve been thinking of Lent as less of a desert crossing (everyone’s favorite metaphor) than a hillside pilgrimage. Around the world, millions of believers are making their way to the mountain, getting closer every day, uniting in one final ascent to marvel at the unfathomable love of God made real on the cross of Jesus.
In ancient Judaism, a song of ascents anticipated the joy to come when God’s people arose in praise. That’s where we get poetry like “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.” More often an ascending song focused on what got left behind to enter God’s presence. Faith in God’s forgiveness enables us to climb this final ascent of Lent with clean hands, pure hearts, self-honesty, and truth-talk. As we move through this week connecting Lent’s climb to Holy Week’s struggles, let’s off-load unnecessary baggage and unhealthy thoughts. There is a hilltop before us, where hatred seeks ruin, but fails spectacularly when Love reigns supreme.
Have you tried out Givelify yet? It is a wonderful and easy stewardship app that enables you to set a monthly or weekly donation, keep track of your giving, do special one-off contributions. Use the QR code above to get yourself set up so you’ll be able to give every time the Spirit moves you!
Lenten Prayer Series: Morning Prayer
Pastor Tim gets up early in the morning to lead us in a favorite discipline of his, Morning Prayer—or, as he likes to call it, “Ugly Breakfast Prayer” (and he means it!).
A 40-Day Journey with Madeleine L’Engle
Our Lenten travels with one of the 20th-century’s most beloved authors continues. Join us each Thursday at 7:30pm CDT as we look over the past week’s readings from her 40-Day Journey (available on Amazon and Kindle) and discuss what spoke to us.