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The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, and it lasts until the Saturday before Easter Day. The last week of Lent is called Passion Week, which includes both Maundy Thursday (the institution of the Lord’s Supper) and Good Friday (the crucifixion of our Lord). Reminiscent of Jesus’ fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Lenten season lasts forty days (not counting Sundays).
Lent is a time to ask God to confront our own mortality and sinfulness; to ask Him to show us our need for grace; to grow in repentance; and, to reflect on the amazing truth of the Church’s participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Lent, I am especially praying that the Lord would conform me to the likeness of Jesus Christ, just as He’s promised.
For this year, our texts and readings are selected from Charles Wesley’s Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures (Bristol: Farley, 1762). At West End Presbyterian Church where I serve as a pastor, we sing so many of Wesley’s hymns– Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, And Can It Be, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Rejoice! the Lord Is King— to name a few. Many people believe he’s the best hymn writer the Church has produced. You can check out every published Charles Wesley hymn here and see how he wrote hymns for pretty much every occasion over the course of a lifetime.
Wesley was an itinerant evangelist who grew ill in his mid-50’s. He had to take a leave of absence from preaching and spent time recuperating in Bristol, England in 1760–61. As he rested, Wesley read through the entire Bible and wrote a remarkable series of short poems— an average of about 5 a day! Unlike his earlier work on the Psalms which were paraphrases scripture, these short hymns have an intimately personal and devotional tone. I’ve really been helped by Wesley’s hymns this year, and I thought I’d share them with you. I was pretty sick myself for most of last fall. These hymns were a deep encouragement to me as I waited on Jesus to answer prayer for my health, strength, patience and peace.
May you be amazed at the grace of God as you see the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. May we all be conformed more and more to the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Selections from Charles Wesley’s Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures quoted from source documents housed at the Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition, Duke Divinity School, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.