Lenten Study: Week 2
In the previous session, we learned how Martin Luther wrote that repentance consists in two things: contrition for sins and “taking hold of the promise.”
The “promise” here is the gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the promise of new life in the fullness of God’s reign. It is the promise of the gospels and the prophets, the promise our ancestors in the faith clung to, and the promise that carries the people of God today into communities around the world, accompanying neighbors amid staggering challenges of poverty, hunger and injustice.
In the Gospels, Jesus not only proclaims the promise but lives it. From Galilee to Calvary, he shows us what it means to live according to the promise – boldly, courageously and with faith unceasing. In the face of religious and political persecution, Jesus lives the daring life of faith in God’s grace.
While his trial before Pilate gets more attention, Jesus’ unrelenting march toward Jerusalem is one of the clearest examples of what it means to “take hold of the promise.” He travels from town to town, “teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). At one stop, a group of Pharisees warns him that he must flee because Herod wants to kill him. “Go and tell that fox for me,” Jesus responds, “I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work” (Luke 13:31-32).
Herod is coming for him, and Jesus responds, “I have work to do.” Jesus showed daring confidence that not even death can stop the work of God in the world.
It is that grace-formed confidence that many people of faith bring to the calling of the church – seeing even in the midst of death that there is work to be done.
In Akron, Ohio, the Dare to Love More Food and Resources program at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is bringing new life out of death. In fact, as Deacon Marla Wood Kay, the director of Holy Trinity’s congregational ministries, describes, “the idea for this ministry was born in a hospice room." When Debra Manteghi, a longtime member and tireless community advocate, died from cancer, Wood Kay and other leaders at Holy Trinity wanted to continue the ministry Manteghi had begun by opening a food pantry in her honor. Today, the DLM pantry serves 75 families each month, providing them with food, clothing, books, counseling and a safe place for children to play.
More than 82,000 people – about 15.3 percent of the population – in Summit County, where Akron is located, don’t always know where their next meal will come from. Akron faces many of the challenges other Midwestern cities face – a loss of manufacturing jobs, a rise in hunger and poverty, and air and water pollution in some communities. Yet, like other cities across the country and around the world, God is at work through local leaders, families and organizations to shape a bright future. And DLM is part of that work.
In Lent, we remember Jesus’ long walk to Jerusalem and to Calvary. But in faith, we also know that nothing can stop the work of God. Together, we “take hold of the promise” with confidence, knowing that even out of death, God will bring new life and hope to the world.
Herod wants us dead? “I am casting out demons and performing cures” (Luke 13:32).
The shadow of the cross looms ahead of us? “I must be on my way” (Luke 13:33).
A dreaded disease takes the life of a leader and friend? “The idea for this ministry was born in a hospice room.”
Poverty and hunger threaten our community? “Go and tell that fox,” God is not done with us yet.
There are four disciplines, or spiritual practices, that guide our time during Lent. Use the questions and prompts below to reflect on the Lenten disciplines: repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving, and works of love.
Think of a time when fear cast a shadow on your relationships with your neighbors. How does Christ encourage us to go outside our comfort zone to love and serve our neighbors?
PRAYER AND FASTING
This week, include in your prayers ministries like Dare to Love More, which give hope to people in their communities. Give thanks for their work, and ask God to continue to strengthen their ministries.
What goal for giving did you set for yourself or your family last week? Learn more about the ministries supported through your gifts to ELCA World Hunger, like Dare to Love More, by reading stories available at ELCA.org/40Days.
WORKS OF LOVE
In the face of death, disease and poverty, God continues to bring new life and hope. How do you, your family and your congregation bear witness to courage and hope in an uncertain world?