Tag Archives: Lent

Forward Today: No matter what, God is there

Dear friends in Christ,

We stand poised to embark on a great journey, if we will make time for it. The next three days, the church around the world observes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter. Taken together, these are the Triduum Sacrum, or the Three Holy Days. They draw us into the heart of our life together as Christians.

It might seem impossible to go on this journey. All around us, our time and attention are demanded by concerns great and small. The fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris might be a parable for so much of our world: destruction and hope persist together. Political chaos looms in many nations. Poverty and wealth both abound, and violence never fades away. News networks do not relent. Fear grows and hope fades.

Crucifix

Making time for church services will not cause world peace, but our time in worship may inspire us to work for peace. The liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter show us nearly every side of Jesus. And in knowing Christ Jesus, we encounter the image of the invisible God.

The Three Holy Days will fix nothing on their own, but we will see that God’s presence is never far, no matter what. Whether in love, friendship, betrayal, abandonment, suffering, death, and even hell, God is there.

I bid you God’s blessing and peace as we enter this holiest time of the year. Perhaps you will, as I do, find it helpful to pray this wonderful prayer that is used both on Good Friday and Easter Eve.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Image: Flickr

Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift – the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: The Fig Tree

Dear Friends,

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
-Luke 13:6-9

This Sunday we will hear this parable about one such sad fig tree. The owner of this unproductive plant suggests to the gardener that it be cut down because it is wasting valuable land. The gardener advocates for applying special care and attention to the tree to see if it will be coaxed into production. He agrees that if his efforts fail and there are no figs in a year, he’ll chop it down.

Fig tree

It seems to me that Lent provides us with a similar opportunity to pause and evaluate the unproductive trees in our lives. We are given 40 long days to ask ourselves questions like: What parts of our ministries are not bearing fruit? Are we being called to give more attention to the struggling parts of our lives? Is it time to cut our losses and stop giving energy to a project/relationship/program that will likely never produce fruit? Is there an area where an adjustment to how we think or act might invite new growth?

The Forward Movement board and staff spend a good deal of time in such examination of this special ministry we are stewarding. We constantly ask ourselves if our resources align with our mission statement “Inspiring Disciples, Empowering Evangelists.” Is what we are offering still relevant? Are we making tools that are easily accessible by a variety of audiences? Are we keeping up with modern technology so that we remain current? Are our books, videos, conferences, and programs bearing fruit in the church and the world?

This is the holy work God is calling us to as a board, as churches, and in our lives. Like a gardener who carefully tends his plants, God compels us to carefully prune and patiently wait for the fruits of our work, cutting back here, adding soil there.

I hope you will consider joining me in this important work of evaluation this Lent, that we may all find abundance in the gardens of our lives. Together, may we find that God is not bent on destroying figs, but on loving them and watching them thrive.

Yours in Christ,

Anne Schmidt

Anne Schmidt is the Forward Movement Board Chair and Director of Evangelism and Welcoming Ministries at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, affectionately called “The Fig” by many of its members.


Today’s Flash Sale: Acts to Action

Acts to ActionJesus’ first disciples and modern-day Christians face the same question: How do we share the good news of Christ that we have experienced with the people we meet in the course of our daily lives? The Book of Acts details how the early disciples overcome the challenges of spreading the gospel in the midst of failing institutions, theological differences, and widespread uncertainty. With a focus on Acts Chapter 8, editors Susan Brown Snook and Adam Trambley and contributors from across the Episcopal Church discuss how these lessons from Christ’s earliest followers apply to the mission Jesus still gives us today: to be his witnesses in our churches and neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth. The authors explore essential elements of church mission, including worship, proclamation, loving and serving, repentance, and knowing the community. Framed by reflections from church leaders Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Gay Clark Jennings, the book provides encouragement and practical suggestions to help individuals and groups move from Acts to action.

Contributors include: Joseph Alsay, Carrie Boren Headington, Frank Logue, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, Steve Pankey, and Holli Powell

Regular: $16
Today: $12

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Sacrificial Love

Dear Friends,

As I write this, I am in my second week of caring for my husband after surgery. Normally one of the most independent people I know, this experience has left him unable to drive, dress without assistance, or cook for himself. Just walking from the bedroom to the kitchen tires him and he finds it difficult to sleep. He is just miserable.

I feel much as I did when our son was a newborn–sleep deprived, a little overwhelmed, yet overcome with love. I recognize that this experience is nothing like that of someone who has been a caregiver for years with no respite but it has given me time to think about the nature of love and sacrifice as Lent begins.

As a child, the question as Lent approached was what I would “give up” for Lent. Over the years, I chose whatever happened to be my favorite indulgence at the time like chocolate, sweets, or wine. I even tried to dedicate myself to positive change like exercise or healthy eating. I confess that I was not very successful in these Lenten “sacrifices”.

This year, I have decided to spend Lent trying to understand the nature of the great sacrifice of our Lord on Good Friday and to appreciate the love that prompted it. I hope to reflect daily on my human experience of love–love as a wife, a mother, a daughter and sister, a friend. I want to take that experience and share it with others in need of loving care. I want to do it because that is what Christ did for me. The love He gives is too big to keep for myself.

Yours in Christ,

Julie Thomas
Treasurer of Forward Movement


Today’s Flash Sale: Inwardly Digest

Have you ever wondered if there was some kind of guide to living a deeper, richer spiritual life that seamlessly incorporated scripture alongside the wisdom of the Church? There is—and you can find it in a pew rack near you! The Book of Common Prayer is more than a service book; it is a map to a deeper relationship with God, a framework for developing a more intentional and rewarding life of faith.

Scholar Derek Olsen explores liturgical spirituality and how the prayer book serves as a repository of Christian wisdom and spiritual practice stretching back to the beginnings of the Christian movement. Focusing on three key elements—the Calendar, the Daily Office, and the Eucharist—he discusses the spiritual principles behind them and provides clear, practical, easy-to-follow explanations of the services. These patterns of life laid out in The Book of Common Prayer serve as a guide to the spiritual life, so that we might connect back to the God who calls each of us by name and that we might love as God loves us.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.5

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time


How is God calling you to enter the holy season of Lent? What path will you walk during these forty days?

Forward Movement invites you to explore and respond to how Jesus is tugging at your heart. While the season of Lent calls us all into a particular period of reflection, we choose different journeys. Depending upon where we are in our own seasons of life and faith, we may be called into a time of deep introspection, contemplation, and prayer. Perhaps God is calling us to an outward focus on works of mercy. Or maybe we need a time of formation, to connect our hearts and minds as we walk in love.

We offer three broad paths built around the Way of Love, the Presiding Bishop’s call for practices that support a Jesus-centered life. Each path suggests a primary resource as well as numerous others that expand on the central theme. We offer these as guideposts, as trail markers, knowing and hoping that you will choose your own path during this Lent, and in doing so, make a choice to choose Jesus.

Learn more and choose your Lenten path here.

Faith with a Twist: The Season of Lent

yoga posesThe authors of Faith with a Twist: A 30-Day Journey into Christian Yoga, Hillary D. Raining and Amy Nobles Dolan, offer Faith with a Twist: The Season of Lent for your Lenten journey.

Lent is a time of preparation as we move toward the great feast of Easter. Since the early church, Christians have marked this season with prayer, penitence, fasting, self-denial, and acts of charity. As you have seen in this book, these themes are often explored in yoga as well as both practices call us into fuller relationship with Christ.

In the Western church, the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism.

Faith with a Twist: The Season of Lent offers thirty days of prayer, reflection, and practice. If you want to adapt your practice for the season of Lent, you can extend it to the full forty days by adding Sundays as well as the Holy Week Portions to your journey.

Download Now

Forward Today: Ash Wednesday

Dear Friends,

We do an important thing today—a brave thing, daunting enough that we need Jesus beside us while we do it. Today, the Church invites us to admit three deep truths about ourselves: we are dying, beloved, and incapable of saving ourselves. That confession can shake us to our cores. We don’t tell these kinds of hard truths to ourselves very often, and I think that’s why Ash Wednesday is so important—why the discipline of it and the truths we tell ourselves on this day deeply matter.

Wearing the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday fronds on our foreheads is a stark reminder of how quickly life can change and how changeless God’s deep love is for each of us. Odds are that someone you know and love has died this year—maybe even several people. And by the time Ash Wednesday rolls around next year, you might not be here, either. I might not. Jesus might come back. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that today is a special day—a day of tallying up the count, and then throwing out the numbers.

Ashes

Ash Wednesday, much like other festival days, reminds us of the already-and-not-yet nature of the kingdom of God. We are dying a little bit every day. And even in our dying, we are being lifted into something new, something whole and holy, the elevated substance of what we have already been made to be. Ash Wednesday reminds us that the whole world palm trees, people, prophets—is being brought into subjection under God’s Christ, renewed and restored and resplendent. This day takes us back to the first day, to the dust of our creation, to the breath of the Holy Spirit filling our nostrils and giving us life. It takes us to our last day, to breathing our last breath back into the Holy Spirit and saying “Thank you” for letting us be here.

If you can, try to plan and take today kind of easy. It’s a big day. You’ll need some extra space in your head and heart. If you’ve been procrastinating choosing a Lenten discipline, you can join in on our Lent Tracks by visiting www.ForwardMovement.org or playing along with www.LentMadness.org. However you choose to observe this holy season, know our prayers are with you. Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem; may we be brave enough to follow.

With prayers for a holy Lent,

Rachel Jones
Associate Editor, Forward Movement


Ashes speak to me
of what matters and
what does not.

Remind me of the heart
of my heart and that I
and the ones I love
are more that what
will dribble into the
ground.

May I be thankful
that I await not just
the ashes

but the Phoenix.

-Len Freeman

Woodcut by Jason Sierra


Today’s Flash Sale: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Saint Augustine's Prayer BookSaint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a book of prayer and practice—with disciplines, habits, and patterns for building a Christian spiritual life. It will help you to develop strong habits of prayer, to prepare for and participate in public liturgy thoughtfully, and to nurture a mind and soul ready to work and give and pray for the spread of the kingdom. Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book features “Holy Habits of Prayer,” devotions to accompany Holy Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, and Stations of the Resurrection, and a wide range of litanies, collects, and prayers for all occasions. The newly revised edition includes the treasured liturgies and prayers of the original while offering some important updates in language and content. Revised and edited by well-regarded scholars David Cobb and Derek Olsen, the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a wonderful gift as well as a handsome addition to your own prayer book collection. Comes leather-bound (black) with two ribbons in a gift box.

Regular: $28
Today: $21

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time


How is God calling you to enter the holy season of Lent? What path will you walk during these forty days?

Forward Movement invites you to explore and respond to how Jesus is tugging at your heart. While the season of Lent calls us all into a particular period of reflection, we choose different journeys. Depending upon where we are in our own seasons of life and faith, we may be called into a time of deep introspection, contemplation, and prayer. Perhaps God is calling us to an outward focus on works of mercy. Or maybe we need a time of formation, to connect our hearts and minds as we walk in love.

We offer three broad paths built around the Way of Love, the Presiding Bishop’s call for practices that support a Jesus-centered life. Each path suggests a primary resource as well as numerous others that expand on the central theme. We offer these as guideposts, as trail markers, knowing and hoping that you will choose your own path during this Lent, and in doing so, make a choice to choose Jesus.

Learn more and choose your Lenten path here.

Forward Today: Lenten practices

Grant, O Lord, that by the observance of these days of Lent we may grow in companionship with Christ, and that by sharing his suffering we may come to know the power of his resurrection, this we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen

If you had told me a decade ago that I would come to cherish the 40 days of Lent, I would have thought you were suffering from a case of mistaken identity. But I have become that person. I look forward to observing Lent and growing in companionship with Christ during those very special 40 days. I miss these days when they are over.

During Lent, I try to be more faithful about giving alms, spending time in prayer, and strengthening my spiritual practice.

One Lent, I intentionally carried dollar bills in my pocket every day so that if I encountered anyone in need, I would immediately have something beyond a smile to give them.

I love to learn more during Lent, and I like to immerse myself in several daily reflections. I especially recommend Forward Day by Day, of course, and also the reflections offered by Episcopal Relief & Development.

Not long ago, when I was feeling troubled, I prayed a very simple prayer: Lord, hold my hand. As I prayed that prayer, with my eyes closed and my brow furrowed in concentration on a commuter train hurtling towards New York City, the faces of friends appeared, one after the other. I saw how God had been sending all these people to me as his messengers to hold my hand.

May you experience God holding your hand during this Lent, and may you grow in companionship with Christ during these 40 days and ever after.

Yours in Christ,

Lynne Jordal Martin
Forward Movement Board Member


Today’s Flash Sale: Dust Bunnies in the Basket

Episcopal priest Tim Schenck offers good humor and spiritual direction for the journey through Lent and Easter. With keen observations and a clever wit, Schenck connects the mundane with the divine, from dust bunnies and egg hunts to foot washing and the Easter Vigil. Illustrated by popular cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, Dust Bunnies in the Basket challenges us to go deeper this Lent, to “kick up some dust every now and then, to roll up our sleeves and get involved with the world and the people around us.” This book is ideal for personal reflection or seasonal study groups and includes thoughtful questions at the end of each section.

Regular: $10
Today: $7.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time


How is God calling you to enter the holy season of Lent? What path will you walk during these forty days?

Forward Movement invites you to explore and respond to how Jesus is tugging at your heart. While the season of Lent calls us all into a particular period of reflection, we choose different journeys. Depending upon where we are in our own seasons of life and faith, we may be called into a time of deep introspection, contemplation, and prayer. Perhaps God is calling us to an outward focus on works of mercy. Or maybe we need a time of formation, to connect our hearts and minds as we walk in love.

We offer three broad paths built around the Way of Love, the Presiding Bishop’s call for practices that support a Jesus-centered life. Each path suggests a primary resource as well as numerous others that expand on the central theme. We offer these as guideposts, as trail markers, knowing and hoping that you will choose your own path during this Lent, and in doing so, make a choice to choose Jesus.

Learn more and choose your Lenten path here.

Lenten Resources

Lent is just a few short weeks away. We’ve put together a list of resources that we believe will guide you, move you, challenge you, and ultimately transform you this Lenten season. We will be praying for you as we enter this sacred season.

Meeting JesusMeeting Jesus on the Margins
Meditations on Matthew 25

Where do you meet Jesus? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. And in doing so, we meet Jesus. These daily reflections for Lent, offered by well-known faith leaders, provide boots-on-the-ground stories of serving and being served by “the least of these.” The meditations also explore our own hunger, our vulnerabilities, and the times we are imprisoned, either self-imposed or by circumstance. Come and meet Jesus each day this blessed Lenten season.


Are We There YetAre We There Yet?
Pilgrimage in the Season of Lent

As we make our way through Lent, we will come to realize that the journey—the wrestling and the wandering—is the real flesh and blood of our endeavor. Our companions on this Lenten journey are fellow pilgrims, sharing their stories about following yellow arrows along the Camino and white blazes through the Appalachian Trail to bearing witness to the pain of historic lynching sites in the American South. Contributors recount their search for healing and wholeness at Marian shrines, in a reunion with birth parents, and around a prayer circle in a psychiatric hospital.


Ashes and the PhoenixAshes and the Phoenix
By Leonard Freeman

Threaded throughout with the stunningly visual and visceral poems of Len Freeman and guided by the collects for Lent and Holy Week, Ashes and the Phoenix seeks to lead us through the emotions, symbols, sights, sounds, and scents of Lent. Featuring original woodcuts by artist Jason Sierra, this book is a feast for hungry hearts and weary eyes. If you are seeking a way to answer the Church’s invitation to observe a holy Lent, Ashes and the Phoenix is an excellent companion for your journey to Easter.


Join the Journey Join the Journey through Lent
Illustrated by Jay Sidebotham

Join the Journey through Lent, illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, invites spiritual reflection and is a wonderful companion for the Lenten season. The 17″ x 22″ size is just right for hanging on the wall or keeping on a table for daily coloring. Share these with your congregation, youth group, Sunday School classes, and keep them on hand for coloring fun.
Shrink wrapped in packs of 25, posters are 17″ x 22″, folded to 8.5″ x 11″.


Saintly Scorecard 2019 Saintly Scorecard

The Saintly Scorecard is the official guide to Lent Madness, featuring the biographies of all 32 saints in contention for the coveted Golden Halo. It also includes tips on how congregations and individuals can use Lent Madness as a devotional tool, as well as a handy glossary and fold-out bracket so you can keep track of the winners.

Contributors include: Laurie Brock, Megan L. Castellan, David Sibley, Amber Belldene, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Marcus Halley, David Hansen, Emily McFarlan Miller, Carol Howard Merritt, and Adam Thomas.


2019 Lent Madness Bracket Poster

Lent Madness, inspired by college basketball tournaments, pits 32 saints against each other in a bracket, as each saint seeks to win the coveted Golden Halo. Throughout Lent, fans vote for their favorite saints at www.lentmadness.org. While you can download and print your own copy of the bracket from the website, many parishes and families like to have a poster-sized bracket to keep track of the competition. This color poster is 24″ x 36″ and ships to you folded.


Walk in LoveWalk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices
By Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe

This Lent, dig deeper into your faith with Walk in Love. Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests – Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Forward Today: Meeting Jesus on the Margins

Matthew 25:34. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

As a very small child, I loved books, but I hated to color and draw—which wasn’t awesome for developing the fine motor control little hands need to write legibly. I spent a lot of extra time at home with those wide-ruled practice papers and big pencils…top line-middle line-bottom line, loops and slanted lines, scrawling my name over and over. And there, on the edges of the paper were the margins. The margins were, in my kindergarten mind, a no-man’s land of red pen marks and do-overs. Those exercises were where I learned what margins meant—an area you weren’t supposed to trespass into, because it just wasn’t done.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about margins in my little-kid way, but I’ve learned a lot about the other kind of margins—the sidelines of society where we shove people who don’t look or think or pray or love like the majority of the society in which they live. The prophets warn us about this and so does Jesus. They don’t mince words either.

I cannot tell you the number of emails and letters we have received from all over the place telling us how folks have come to meet Jesus in the most unexpected and unexplored places in their lives and communities. People are writing the Gospel of love all over the margins, crossing lines and boundaries and making the kingdom of God come near with their lives and relationships.

As Lent beings to loom in our minds and on the liturgical calendar, we might begin to wonder how to shape and share our Lenten disciplines; I would invite you to examine the margins in your own life and work. Jesus is there—waiting for you. You can also participate in Forward Movement’s Lenten program: Choose Lent, Choose Jesus, which features our book Meeting Jesus on the Margins as one of the reading options.

With peace and joy,

Rachel Jones
Associate Editor, Forward Movement


Today’s Flash Sale: Meeting Jesus on the Margins

Where do you meet Jesus? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. And in doing so, we meet Jesus. These daily reflections for Lent, offered by well-known faith leaders, provide boots-on-the-ground stories of serving and being served by “the least of these.” The meditations also explore our own hunger, our vulnerabilities, and the times we are imprisoned, either self-imposed or by circumstance. Come and meet Jesus each day this blessed Lenten season.

Authors include: Mike Kinman, Becca Stevens, Allison Duvall, Bo Cox, Hugo Olaiz, Lee Anne Reat, and Richelle Thompson.

Regular: $5
Today: $3.75

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time


How is God calling you to enter the holy season of Lent? What path will you walk during these forty days?

Forward Movement invites you to explore and respond to how Jesus is tugging at your heart. While the season of Lent calls us all into a particular period of reflection, we choose different journeys. Depending upon where we are in our own seasons of life and faith, we may be called into a time of deep introspection, contemplation, and prayer. Perhaps God is calling us to an outward focus on works of mercy. Or maybe we need a time of formation, to connect our hearts and minds as we walk in love.

We offer three broad paths built around the Way of Love, the Presiding Bishop’s call for practices that support a Jesus-centered life. Each path suggests a primary resource as well as numerous others that expand on the central theme. We offer these as guideposts, as trail markers, knowing and hoping that you will choose your own path during this Lent, and in doing so, make a choice to choose Jesus.

Learn more and choose your Lenten path here.

Meeting Jesus on the Margins: Ash Wednesday

2381 Meeting Jesus on the Margins

One of our most powerful meditation resources this Lent is Meeting Jesus on the Margins: Meditations on Matthew 25.

These reflections look at Jesus’ mission with the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned—the marginalized.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we’re posting the first reflection from the volume, written by Mike Kinman. It’s part of a first section that focuses on the matter of hunger in its myriad forms. We hope you find meaning in Mike’s words, and share them as you see fit.

 


 

February 10 Ash Wednesday

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. —The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 264-5

The simplest question is the most useful: Why?

We need always to be asking “Why?” and not letting our quickest answers, which are most deeply rooted in our prejudices, be our final answer.

When we see someone using the steps of a public library as a bed at night, we need to ask “Why?”

When we read a story about a transgender teenager committing suicide, we need to ask “Why?”

When we go into a grocery store in an impoverished neighborhood and see a fully stocked liquor shelf and no fresh produce, we need to ask “Why?”

When we learn we incarcerate a higher percentage of our citizens than any nation in the world, we need to ask “Why?”

When we see young people of color burn down the Quik Trip convenient store in Ferguson, Missouri, we need to ask “Why?”

And as we embark on our Lenten journey, we need to ask “Why?”

Our first answer, rooted in what we’ve always been taught, might be that we observe Lent as an exercise in self-flagellation, so that, in Paul’s words, we might not “think of ourself more highly than we ought” (Romans 12:3). We might think our Lenten observance is grounded in our unworthiness. But we need to dig deeper.

The prayer at the beginning of our Ash Wednesday liturgy gives us the answer. We observe a holy Lent to remember Jesus’ gospel of “pardon and absolution.” Lent is not about confession and repentance as punishment but as a profound, grace-filled unburdening so that we might encounter the living Christ in all Christ’s abundant joy.

This book sets our Lenten journey in that context of meeting Christ…meeting Christ right where he tells us he will be…in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. It is a journey of seeing all those people as Jesus. Of asking “Why?” and not being satisfied by our first answer. Of realizing that those whom the world of power and privilege label as “them” are really the deepest and most sacred portion of “us.”

—Mike Kinman

Click here to get a copy of Meeting Jesus on the Margins, or to download the book to your e-reader.