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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.

February 2018 Newsletter (Year B)
The Temptation of Jesus, by Pastor Bruce Benson

In churches that use the Common Lectionary, the season of Lent, beginning soon, always starts with a story of temptation. That’s not much to sing about. One might argue, in fact, that only “the Tempter” could possibly sing about temptation. On the first Sunday in Lent, however, when the Church pays attention once again to the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, most of the time it also sings. And if one uses an older definition of “sing,” it is easy to say that the Church faithfully “sings” the story of the temptation of Jesus.

The 17th century poet, John Milton, author of a few hymn texts, and most famous for his long poem, Paradise Lost, also wrote what might be called a sequel to that poem: Paradise Regained. It is the story, in verse, of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Milton (writing in the English of his day) begins his poem this way:

I who erewhile the happy Garden sung,  (meaning Eden)
By one man’s disobedience lost, now sing
Recover’d Paradise to all mankind,
By one man’s firm obedience fully tri’d
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foil’d

Did you notice that Milton does not describe his first poem as having been written but “sung?” And the poem he starts here he will not write but “sing,” he says. He is going to “sing” the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Milton’s use of the word “sing” dates back to the time of Homer’s verses when it had a more literal meaning; it is now archaic. Yet some of the sense of it lingers. We still use expressions like “singing the praises” of so and so.          

If Milton’s form of singing means telling a story in verse form, I should have written these comments last year when the story of Jesus’ temptation was read from Matthew’s Gospel on the First Sunday in Lent. Matthew’s account has a lovely rhythm to it: the tempter makes a suggestion, Jesus replies by quoting Deuteronomy; the tempter makes another suggestion, another quotation from Deuteronomy. Three times this happens. Milton would likely agree that Matthew “sings” the story. 

Mark’s version, by contrast, is extremely brief. Hardly singing at all. No specific temptations are identified, no locations given, and Jesus never quotes Deuteronomy. If Matthew’s story “sings” Mark’s barely hums. But because of the outcome of the story, the Church willingly lifts its voice and sings even on the First Sunday in Lent, and even when the story is read from The Gospel of Mark.  

Near the end of his fanciful re-telling of the story, Milton tells us that Satan fell, “smitten with amazement” at the faithfulness and wisdom of Jesus. Then, turning his attention to Jesus, he tells us, “Angelic Choirs sung heavenly Anthems of his victory over temptation and the Tempter proud.” So if the Church today still sings the story of Jesus’ temptation, it simply puts us in good company with “angelic choirs.” 

Peace be with you,




Pastor Bruce Benson

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February Playlists and Programs

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

February 4, 2018: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany — Lectionary 5 (Year B)

February 11, 2018: Transfiguration of Our Lord — Last Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)

February 18, 2018: First Sunday in Lent (Year B)

February 25, 2018: Second Sunday in Lent (Year B)

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Fall Fund Drive Update

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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.


J. Robb Bartlett

Virginia H. Cavanagh, on the occasion of Saint Nicholas Day

Kermit DeLaurant

Mrs. Pat Haynes

Mark W. Johnson

Carol J. Peterson

Evelyn Strader

Gregory Sarkisian’s Uncles


Dr. Anton Armstrong

Bruce Benson

Anne and Bill Brashear

Dr. Matt Brittain

John Ferguson

Gene’s 80th Birthday

Serena Marty

Dr. Carl Schalk

Robert Scholz

Kathy Sharon

Clayton Smith ‘10, for his excellent education and Dr. Ferguson’s mentoring of him

Margaret Huss Smith

St. Mary’s Choir in Lomira, Wisconsin

Due to your overwhelming generosity and support, honorariums and memorials from the fall fund drive will continue in next month's newsletter. Thank you!

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