This Month's Newsletter

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

March 2018 Newsletter (Year B)
Faith in the Time of Lent, by Pastor Bruce Benson

As I write these few words, the season of Lent is about to begin, and by the time you read them, Lent will be well underway. Why do Christians around the world continue to put themselves through this season that has such a gloomy reputation? I’m going to suggest that the Sing For Joy program for the 5th Sunday in Lent this year provides a non-gloomy musical answer to that question. But let’s get there with a look at Lent. 

Lent has come to be understood and observed in many ways. Mostly, the Church has no quarrel with that variety. For example, millions of Christians around the world observe Lent by giving up something – meat being the most common, but coffee and chocolate often make the list too – while millions of others don’t change their diet for Lent in any way. Neither group makes much of a fuss about the other. The church has found room for both traditions. It is the same with the many themes and emphases that add up to what we might call the Lenten collage: preparation for baptism renewal, contemplation of mortality, admission of guilt, moral self-evaluation, spiritual renewal, reminders of the suffering of Christ, the call to discipleship, etc. These several themes are not in competition with each other, they are in concert, and Lent is the richer for it.

Sometimes, however, traditions and habits pile up in the sacred space of Lent, and instead of helping people of faith encounter the meaning of Lent, they become the meaning. This is where the Sing For Joy music for the 5th Sunday in Lent has an important reminder. Psalm 51 is the Psalm of the Day for that Sunday, and several musical settings of the psalm are featured on that week’s program.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

If that were the entire psalm, would anybody sing it? It is not exactly a sentiment to put songs in your heart. Yet musical settings of the psalm are abundant. Why? Well, if you know the psalm, you know it does not end with the thought that “my sin is ever before me.” It goes on to say, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” This psalm exhibits the trust (faith) to which Lent calls believers. Trust this, says the penitential season of Lent: honesty about life (we are mortal) and about ourselves (we are not what we ought to be) can be more than mumbled or whispered or shamed out of us; such honesty can be sung, because it is met with Grace, not disgust and rejection. 

Even though dishonesty is a weight, and unpleasant secrets a burden, if confessional honesty is likely to be met with rejection or condemnation, who will risk it? If, however, it is met with Grace, as Lent reminds us it is, it can be sung right out loud. Sing for joy.    


Peace be with you,




Pastor Bruce Benson

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March Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins.

March 4, 2018: Third Sunday in Lent (Year B)

March 11, 2018: Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year B)

March 18, 2018: Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year B)

March 25, 2018: Sunday of the Passion — Palm Sunday (Year B)

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Lanterns and candle on altar of Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf College
Memorials and Honorariums

Thank you for your gifts in memory and honor of those close to your heart.


Ruth Ferguson

Kenneth Jennings

Helen Kemp

Donald S. Klinefelter

Jennifer Koenig

Kyria Madany-Klein

Walter Nelson

Weston Noble

Elizabeth C. Pellegrini

Dr. and Mrs. Noel Tosseland '37


Julie Dwyer, Director of Music at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Palmyra, VA

Mr. and Mrs. Mitch Vickers

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Sukup Manufacturing Co., St. Olaf College, and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA)