We are now into the season of Lent, which is the period of preparation before Easter. I will be talking more about this season and ways that we can observe it in the coming weeks, but for now, I will say that it is what Advent is to Christmas: a time for us to prepare our hearts to be able to fully celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection during the Easter season.
This Sunday, we will be talking about hope; specifically, the hope that we have in Christ. Pastor John will be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which talks quite a bit about the Second Coming of the Lord, and our hope in Christ and his return fulfilled. As we will see on Sunday, this is a hope that is certain, and that, just as we know that Christ died and was raised from the dead, and just as he ascended into heaven, we can place our hope in him, knowing that he will one day return to take his Church to be with him forever. For our Song of Ascent this week, we will be singing "Rejoice, the Lord is King," in which we affirm the truth that Christ is reigning as King in heaven. The last verse of the hymn especially is very appropriate for our service this week when it says "Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord, the Judge, shall come, and take his servants up to their eternal home."
For our Hymn of Praise this week, we will be singing Psalm 97. It is a wonderful psalm in which we praise God for his creative acts, the fact that he is God above all gods, and that he keeps all of his righteous saints secure even in trials. In a week where we will be looking to our eternal hope in Christ, what better way to affirm this hope than by praising God for his unwavering glory, holiness, and deliverance of his people?
Our Hymn of Rejoicing will be a repeat of the hymn we sang last week. We are learning the hymn "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" as a congregation over the next couple of months. This is a hymn whose text dates back to the end of the 11th century. Not only that, but the arrangement of the hymn was composed by none other than J. S. Bach himself. So, even if the content of the hymn were not excellent, it would still be a worthwhile hymn to sing for its historical and musical significance. However, hymns do not last such a long time unless their content is combined with such a rich heritage, and such is the case here. The text describes in heartbreaking beauty the depths to which Christ went and suffered out of his love for his elect, and our resolve to live our lives for Christ in gratitude and love for the fact that we have been redeemed.
I could think of no better hymn to sing for our Hymn of Response than "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less." Our hope in Christ is featured strongly throughout the hymn, and the last verse speaks of our being with him forever when he comes again. After hearing a sermon about our eternal hope in Christ, what better way to resolve to apply what we know to be true in our lives than by declaring "on Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." In a world that is filled with so much uncertainty, change, and hopelessness, what joy is ours to know that we belong to and worship a God who is a Solid Rock, who never changes, and who offers us eternal hope and security in his Son!
Sermon: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Old Testament Reading: Job 19:23-29
New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Hymns: Song of Ascent - "Rejoice the Lord Is King" (Trinity Hymnal, 310, verses 1, 2, & 5)
              Hymn of Praise - Psalm 97
              Hymn of Rejoicing - "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" (Trinity Hymnal, 247)
              Hymn of Response - "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" (Trinity Hymnal, 521)
In addition, we will also have a very special treat, in that one of our members, Lee Krehbiel, will be playing the bagpipes for our offertory this week!

Soli Deo Gloria!