Lenten Reflections from Local Ministers
In conjunction with the Stations of the Cross exhibition by artist Margaret Adams Parker, on view in the Chapel from March 2–April 15, local ministers have offered these reflections for the season of Lent.
A reflection on Psalm 91 by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan C. Augustine, Senior Pastor of St. Joseph AME Church
The Revised Common Lectionary texts for the first Sunday of the 2022 Lenten Season include Psalm 91:1-2; 9-6, a psalm naming the safety and security we receive by trusting God. Indeed, Lent calls on the church (ekklesia) to imitate the trust Jesus placed in God, as Jesus underwent tests, in preparing for ministry (Luke 4:1-13). Considering our current “tests,” are you willing to trust God, too?
Some argue Psalm 91 was written during the Babylonian Exile, a time when the children of Israel were ethnically marginalized and held captive in Babylon. Others say it was written by an unnamed king who was preparing to defend Israel in battle. Still others believe it was written for more liturgical purposes, to inspire trust in God as part of prayer and worship. Regardless of origin, classification is clear: Psalm 91 is one of three “Psalms of Trust.” (see also Psalms 23 and 121).
Psalm 91 moves in three identifiable parts. Verses 1-8 and 9-13 are promises of protection, written from the human perspective of the psalmist. Verses 14-16, however, are from the divine perspective, where God promises to save those who call on God, during life’s tests. Again, I ask in the Lenten Season image of Jesus: Are you willing to trust God?
Considering our current social and socioeconomic circumstances, I hope you will follow Jesus’s example and deliberately focus on trusting God during this Lenten Season. Trust God, with international conflict, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Trust God with domestic instability, as inflation continues to rise. Trust God for basic human needs, as housing costs continue to marginalize so many. My prayer is that, regardless of your particulars, you will always trust God.
Rhythms of Repentance
A reflection on James 5:16 by the Rev. Lawrence Yoo, Lead Pastor of Waypoint Church
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”-James 5:16
Why does repentance lead to healing? Repentance is an acknowledgement of sin and responding to it. Just as pain protects our bodies from harm, responding to our emotional pain can lead to proper treatment for spiritual wounds. Without repentance those wounds fester and rot.
Christianity is meant to be a group activity. Yet, as we move closer to one another, it is impossible not to wound or be wounded. And, oftentimes, the closer the community, the easier it is to wound. We need to form rhythms of repentance in our families and communities in order to grow and thrive. Seeking and offering forgiveness should be a normal part of life together.
When was the last time you asked someone for forgiveness? When was the last time you let someone know that you have been wounded by their words or actions, and in doing so, offered them a chance to repent? Over the next forty days consider forming the habit of regular confession and repentance before God and the people placed in your life.
As we all grow in this practice, I pray we will see healing in our broken relationships and in the darkest corners of our hearts.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God
A reflection on Matthew 5:9 by the Rev. Michael D. Page, D.Min., Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Durham and Vicinity
While our world and nation continues to be challenged with social, political, educational and systemic issues that impact us greatly, this season during this time of unrest, I encourage you to center your thoughts and prayers around the continuing presence of the pandemic and the emerging battle that is impacting our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia.
Jesus shared peace in our world therefore, we must continue to pray for peace in our country during these critical times. We must not cease from praying and take every opportunity to share peace with our neighbors, friends, congregations and mankind. The pandemic has created such a major loss in our country with people lives that is affecting families and communities and the major impact it continues to have on our economy. Let us remain hopeful every single day that a positive change will make a difference.
The unnecessary battle that is plaguing Russia and Ukraine has placed total stress and fear on families and their need to escape to a safer place. Let us spend time praying for relief, healing, deliverance and a spirit of love for our nation. We can find calmness in the midst of the chaos, cooperation through the confusion and closeness through Christ. Families should not be subjected to this type of violence and we ask God to grant Grace and Mercy to each of them as they find solace in his name. Additionally, I seek God’s wisdom and understanding upon the leaders of this country.
For such a time as this, let us not waste energy on war but placing emphasis and hope on developing a solution to bring together solidarity and unity within our country. It begins with US!
A Trumpet Blast Shout
A reflection on Isaiah 58:6–9 by the Rev. Dr. Tammy Rodman
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Isaiah 58:6-9 is a wonderful passage to reflect on as we enter this season of Lent. I particularly like the Message Bible version for this one because it just keeps it real.
As many of us prepare for our Lenten season fasting we think of how we will turn down our plates, give up the sweets, the caffeine, as well as be more intentional in our prayers and our worship. God through Isaiah is calling us to take a deeper dive into the understanding of God’s heart and desire for us and what true fasting looks like.
This scripture can seem pretty harsh when we read it but we have to realize that the Pharisees and many others were having a form of godliness yet their hearts were not in the right place. Does this sound familiar with the times we are in today? We have leaders who can’t even hold the Bible right side up yet they profess godliness. We live in a country that says in God we trust yet I wonder what god are we are truly trusting in. We have religious leaders who are so caught up in the politics of this world that they don’t hear or walk in the politics of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Over the years I have fasted and have been blessed to be part of a prayer group that has been in existence for almost a decade. We have seen God answer prayers in this work yet I too have wondered with all of the people and religious organizations that call for corporate fast and prayers why does the world not seem to be getting any better? Maybe just maybe the answer lies in these nine verses. Maybe the answer lies in the word of yet another prophet Micah 6:8 “He has told you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
There is hope! Our God loves us so much that even though he sent prophet after prophet seemingly to no avail; finally sending us a Savior that took on our sinfulness and nailed it to the cross and declared it finished. Let us hear the voice of Isaiah and with repentant hearts turn to our savior Jesus who has paid the cost of our sins. Let us truly fast and pray so that God will answer us and help us as we walk in our temporary home.