Changes in worship…..but not the ones you might expect

This Sunday is the Third Sunday in Lent, and perhaps you’ve noticed that worship in your community is a little different these last couple of weeks.

I hope it is.

When worship takes on a different look, feel, or sound – or taste or smell, to include all the senses – it naturally piques our interest, and we sit up and take notice.

A change in the church year’s seasons is a good time to experiment.

(Side note: my laptop’s “o” key sticks so it typed “god time.” Very appropriate.)

Here is how the senses are shifted for my congregation’s Lenten worship this year:

LOOK (sense of sight) – some of the dried palm fronds from Palm Sunday last year are in a large glass vase in plain sight.  Different banners are up.  We’ve added a descriptive paragraph for the day to the bulletin.  But we also see the signs of spring beginning outside a little earlier than usual, because we’ve had so much rain.

FEEL (sense of touch) – this was most present in our Ash Wednesday service, when we felt someone’s touch making the sign of the cross with ashes on our forehead. We also can feel the thick grass under our feet, if on a sunny day we kick off our shoes and tread our grassy area that is a “neighborhood park” welcoming those around us.

SOUND (sense of hearing) – we are using silence intentionally this season, in our confession and at other places in the order of service as well.  Outside of worship, the birds seem to have renewed voices this spring.

TASTE (sense of taste) – this will likely have to wait until the Vigil, when our wine will change from the usual dry red wine.  But we may also be treated to spring fruits after worship – the strawberries are already turning up fully ripened in the stores.

SMELL (sense of smell) – we don’t have a shift in smell in worship, but as soon as we step outside after worship, the explosive scents of budding springtime are all around us.  And those strawberries smell great!

I think of the Lenten gospel acclamation, “return to the Lord, your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  That steadfast love is manifest in these markers of Lent, lodged amid the ever-returning spring.  While we observe a season of reflection, at the same time all of creation is bursting at the seams.

And so we mark the time of Lent, enjoying the Wednesday evenings spent together in food, fellowship, worship, and learning.  Even though today is the first day of spring, we’ll take time to savor a different rhythm and different ways of engaging our senses.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.


Ash Wednesday

For the rest of the Lenten season, I’m committing to blogging once weekly on the topic of change in worship – and yes, I’m defining that broadly.  Worship is something that shifts within a contextual reality but at its core stays the same.

This poem comes from a friend of a colleague.  It made me think about how I will spend this Lent, which is coinciding with a time of great transition for me.

Blessings as you begin this journey – again.


Ash Wednesday     by Cheryl Lawrie

So the day comes around again
and we find ourselves surprised
by the truth
that we are mortal

The stuff of dust and ashes.

Our egos and esteem are held up
to the brutal mirror of the finite:
Know that you will end.
The world will continue without you.

And it’s only with our vision so narrowed
that we are again
able to see
all that lies beyond us:
Know that you are not God.
Know that all the things that make heaven and earth
reach way beyond you.

Live today with faith in your humanness
and let that lead you to life.

Welcome to Lent.