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Series: Together in Ascent

Series Details

Together in Ascent

February 18, 2024 - April 1, 2024

There are numerous ways for Christians to approach the miracle of Easter. For our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, the Season of Lent is marked primarily by a time of confession and penitence. We commonly hear from them that they are “giving up ____” for Lent. In other words, it is a time of introspection and self-denial. For our liturgical brothers and sisters in the High Church Protestant tradition, a similar ethos accompanies the Lenten journey.   For the Free Church tradition (which is our branch of the tree), we have customarily avoided anything that smacked of Catholic works-based theology, and thus, we have focused more on the final two Sundays of the season. For most Protestants in the Free Church stream, we have often used Palm Sunday to address the crucifixion of Jesus and Easter Sunday to celebrate the victory of the Resurrection. Again, most congregations from our tradition avoid the Holy Week observances of Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.   Here at First Baptist Arlington, we have embraced somewhat of a “centrist” perspective in both theology and practice. We begin the Season of Lent/Easter with a church-wide worship service on Ash Wednesday. In the past two years, we actually have incorporated the use of ashes in the actual service. Also, we have variously acknowledged the special place of Holy Week through the years. We have had daily worship services during Holy Week some years. We always have a worship service on Good Friday.   We have tried to strike a middle path between the Roman Catholic perspective and the full Free Church tradition. I think we have achieved a healthy and meaningful balance. We will continue down that path this Lenten/Easter Season.   As we prepare for this journey, I want us to embrace two aspects of this year’s pilgrimage. On the one hand, I want us to be reminded of the actual story of redemption that is communicated through the Gospels and embodied in the very Person of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, I want us to focus on our own journey with the Lord as we contemplate what Jesus has done for us.   So, we will seek to use texts from the Gospel of Mark to set the narrative before us. We will study the entire Gospel of Mark later this summer. However, at the heart of our Lenten journey we will primarily use the Psalms of Ascent to guide us.   The Psalms of Ascent are numbered 120-134 in the Psaltery. We all know the Psalms have such endearing value. They are personal in nature and communal in application. The Psalms help us engage with our feelings as well as our theology. In particular, the Psalms of Ascent have a special role in the life of Israel. There are some differences of opinion as to how they have been used historically by the people of Israel. However, there is enough evidence to lead us to believe that the Jewish people would read these Psalms as they “ascended” to Jerusalem to attend the religious festivals. In other words, they prepared their hearts for the ascent to the Holy City.   Josh Moody, Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, has written a devotional guide to the Psalms of Ascent. Here is his take on the role of these Psalms in history:   The most common interpretation—and the one that I adopt for want of a better option—is that these psalms are pilgrim psalms, generally speaking. They are a journey from a long way away to the very heart of God, as represented by the three great pilgrim festivals in ancient Israel. We can imagine these people singing these psalms as they went up to Jerusalem for a great festival. -Josh Moody, Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent, p. 14   I love this image of these Psalms. These are “pilgrim” psalms. As God’s people, we are pilgrims! This Lenten Season is a time of pilgrimage for us as we will “travel up to Jerusalem” ourselves this Easter.  I am praying that God will use these insights gained from these Psalms (and a few others) to help us prepare our hearts for this particular liturgical season.

Sermons: 6

Sermons in Together in Ascent