Lenten Devotional 2021 PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Si mone , Paste l B lu es 19 65
â€œFather, forgive them, for they know not what they do.â€?
Dear Reader, Last year, during Lent, our world dramatically changed. This Lent we are still navigating the currents of a global pandemic. This Devotional reminds that we do not navigate this season alone. In this community, we are surrounded by others with hopes, fears, faith, courage, and doubts. In the midst of this season, the theme we selected was courage in all times. The contributors were asked to read the lectionary text for their selected date through the lens of courage. We hope this Devotional will steady you in these uncertain times and lend you courage when you can find none. We are delighted to include visual and written commissioned artwork throughout this volume. Visual work is by Carmelle Beaugelin and the poetry is by Desiree McCray. For a further note on the artwork, please see the inside back cover. I, Jan, am deeply grateful for Jenna Reed and Michaela Silvis, our 2021 Lenten Devotional coordinators who have been assisted by Michael Cuppett. I am ever thankful for their creative spirits, wonderful gifts, and faithful work that have woven this book together. I am also grateful for our content editors, Beth Douglass and Brooke Foster. Additional thanks goes to our Communications/External Relations and IT teams who have worked hard to make our Devotional available in print and electronically. We also express our heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed written reflections, poetry, and art. Grace and peace to you this Lenten season,
JENNA REED, CO-COORDINATOR OF THE LENTEN DEVOTIONAL & JAN AMMON, MINISTER OF THE CHAPEL PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 3
FEBRUARY 17 | ASH WEDNESDAY
Isaiah 58:1-12 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Normally, Ash Wednesday signals a step out of the ordinary. For those who observe the liturgical calendar, the green of Ordinary Time grows dull. We are granted a bit of a reprieve for Advent and ‘the holidays,’ but then it’s back to normal, back to ordinary. What might incite Christians to embrace a season of penitence and discipline? Perhaps an aversion to the ‘ordinary,’ the humdrum, or lackluster. But this year is different. Do you long for the ordinary like I do? I could go for a humdrum worship service in the chapel just about now, or perhaps a lackluster lecture in Stuart Hall. Like Israel in the wilderness, we may long for the ‘ordinary’ of our former lives. The prepandemic levels of injustice, of oppression, of incarceration, of hunger, homelessness, and inequity—wasn’t it more tolerable than this? It is tempting to trim my ideals to the normal that I have known. But the prophet says ‘no.’ We can do better. Let us have the courage to not settle for ‘ordinary,’ or at least not the ordinary of our limited imaginations. Jesus names those who hunger and thirst after righteousness ‘blessed.’ May this be a blessed Lent.
MARTIN TEL, DIRECTOR OF MUSIC 4 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
In the overwhelming darkness of uncertainty of bitterness of fear When courage is elusive when we just can’t muster the bravery necessary to take one more step We cling, we grasp not to courage, but to faith It comes from a well within a spring of God’s commitment We are God’s, therefore we can believe We are God’s, therefore we can press on That borrowed courage is faith, sourced from God’s promises That borrowed faith pierces the darkness with its assurance of God’s loyalty That light is our stronghold when we are so very afraid And then, in that light, we can sing DENISE CARRELL, MDIV JUNIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 5
Psalm 148 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
“All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam” This musical moment comes to you today from O Sifuni Mungu, one of my favorite songs from children’s church choir. (Yes, the song still slaps.) You might put on this song. You might meditate on the lyrics printed here. All of creation praises God, as we’re reminded again and again throughout the psalms. Before we even bother, the sun, moon, stars—all of the earth praises God. If we don’t, even the rocks will join in. I’ve found midday dance breaks to be a worshipful and renewing spiritual practice. In the midst of a chilling winter or troubling times, I dare you to dance. Just as God sits with you in low valleys, God delights in your joy. And your joy is a marvelous resistance to an empire that says you are too much or not enough. Sometime today, get up from your desk or move away from your workspace. Put on a song (maybe O Sifuni Mungu) or go outside, paying attention to nature’s worship. Do a little dance. Praise God. If you need some inspiration, I suggest @norah_yarah_rosa on Instagram.
ELLEN WHITE, MDIV/MACEF, YEAR 4 STUDENT WORKER AT THE FARMINARY 6 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Deuteronomy 7:17-26 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. [NIV]
The opening phrase of the Ten Commandments is “I am the Lord your God.” This refrain echoes throughout the Hebrew scriptures. We are constantly called to remember that God is our Lord, who brought the Hebrew people out of Egypt. The people to whom Moses is speaking in Deuteronomy remember intimately God’s taking them out of Egypt. Today, I invite you to remember intimately the times when you have most felt God’s presence in your life and most known that you are saved. When we read in scripture “remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt,” we can remember times when we have felt our own victories from God. We can remember the way that God’s light and resurrection joy triumphed over our own demons and shortcomings. Today’s scripture goes on to remind us that we have seen, with our own eyes, the signs and wonders through which the Lord our God brought us through our challenges. It is upon those memories, formed in intimate relationship with Christ, that we can find our courage to follow Christ and help create God’s kin-dom here on earth.
COURTNEY STEININGER, MDIV SENIOR MODERATOR OF THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION (SGA) PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 7
Courage to Fight Where is your courage? Where is your heart? Not scattered about To turn over some tables To resist self doubt To join the fight for justice To right living To trailblazing Sit not on the sidelines, forgetting your gall for great goal setting Be not dismayed or rattled, When God has called you forth for battle. As the mission meets you Where are your feet to run this race With the swiftness, quickened by that Sweet Spirit
8 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Forgetting the former things, things left behind Pressing forward toward life ahead. For the sake of the Gospel, On rocky road we may tread Where is the courage to seek Godâ€™s radiant face Where in Her presence there is fullness of grace pleas to be at peace pleased to be at Godâ€™s feet prayers yet to be released To find Jesus in the storm, When the battle is raging on to take heart amid the clashing when the trees start dancing in the wind til The Wind stirs us up again Oh it is time to fight and what if I told you praise is your weapon?
Psalm 25:1-10 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
Uncertainty always brings anxiety and fear into our lives. For a long time, the strongest motivation in my life was fear. I did not know what I wanted to do, yet I worked hard to quell the feeling of uncertainty. When I realized that a life based on fear is futile, I started to question God about my path. Though I prayed about this for more than a year, all I heard was sheer silence. Then one day, a colleague asked me: “If you have a chance to meet God and can ask only one question, what would you ask?” Immediately I answered: “God, may I become a minister?” I remember crying for three days after answering that question. The tears were a mixture of happiness, anxiety, thanks, and fear. They came from realizing that God’s silence was an invitation to boldly claim my dream, despite the fear and anxiety I felt. My life after this time of discernment, however, feels more uncertain than before. Yet, when I pray, I hear God’s invitation. “Be bold, be courageous, go out into the world and spread love and justice. This is the path I teach you.”
HYE LIM YOON, MDIV MIDDLER INTERNATIONAL STUDENT FROM SOUTH KOREA PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 9
John 2:1-12 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” [NIV]
In this passage, the wine runs out at a wedding. As moms do, Mary offers her son, Jesus, to help out in the situation. With confidence, Mary turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” Like the wine, what in your life has run out? Are your hopes and dreams depleted? Do you have any fight left in you? Well, servant of God, you have your instructions. Do whatever Jesus tells you to do, by way of the Holy Spirit who is constantly speaking. Note, the path forward was not obvious. The servants could not have anticipated what to do next or the marvel they were about to witness. Containers normally set aside for ceremonial washing, a seemingly different purpose, were the channels for a miracle. A different path and method were required for wonder and amazement to show up. The instruction we receive to restore our hope, revive our dreams, and regain our fight may require us to do something or go somewhere new. If you can muster up the courage to take an unchartered path, you may find choice wine. You may end up with greater hope, bigger dreams, and more fight than ever before.
NICOLE PRIDE, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION 10 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 25 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.
We sit in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has upended countless lives, as well as political and social upheaval that often seems unsolvable. Despair and distress are the order of the day. In this Lenten season, we approach the cross with dread and yes, hope. These verses from Psalm 25 sound like a prayer Jesus could have uttered as the sickening fear of what lay ahead became ever more present and there was no turning back. As I imagine Jesus praying this psalm, I am reminded that he knows and holds our distress and affliction because he has known them, as well. Jesus pleads for God to turn to him, just as we do. In this season of loss and of trial, this gives me courage to face even the most difficult days. Because there is hope in God. Always hope.
PETER MANNING, MDIV MIDDLER PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 11
Hebrews 3:12-19 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
An unexpected resource during these times has been gathering in online groups and seeing everyone’s names and faces. I’m reminded of a story about activist Angela Davis. A supporter once told her that when she wore her T-shirt with Davis’ picture on it, she felt like “I can accomplish anything. I feel empowered.” Davis commented that she knows it’s not about her as an individual, but the power of the work of community. I feel similarly when I log in to daily chapel, worship with my congregation, or even in online meetings with friends, colleagues, and students. In spite of our current struggles, you continue to show up. The power of the Holy Spirit in community is right there in your faces. I am exhorted by your commitment to Jesus, faithfulness, and hopefulness. Throughout the day, when I am feeling discouraged, I see your faces in my mind’s eye and they assure me that we are partners in Christ. I don’t have much confidence in my own staying power, but the community I see gathered in that grid view is a sign and a glimpse of the power of God’s grace and faithfulness.
WANDA SEVEY, DIRECTOR OF STUDENT COUNSELING 12 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [KJV]
I grew up in a Presbyterian Sunday School that memorized Scripture. John 3:16 is the first verse I had for memory work, and while there are other verses I can sort ofremember, this one has never left me. I learned the King James Version, because the RSV was too new to have made it to our church. I often use this verse as an Assurance of Pardon following a congregation’s Prayer of Confession; it makes extemporaneous appearances in sermons, charge and benedictions, and shows up at funerals. It has always been a comfort to me—surely for its import (Luther is reputed to have called this verse “The Gospel in miniature”)—but also for the grounding it represents in a faith I have never NOT known. Thankfully, the verse has grown larger over the years, and has given me courage not just to live and believe in personal salvation (“whosoever believes in him”), but the courage to preach and believe the comprehensive exclamation—“God so loves THE WORLD!” My idea of “Believing in Jesus” has been enlarged by believing in the God who “did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that THE WORLD might be saved through him!”
DON LINCOLN, MDIV 1980 PTS BOARD OF TRUSTEES PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 13
Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
A few days ago, I experienced an anxiety attack. Thoughts that had been overwhelming gradually grew consuming and, over the course of a beautiful fall afternoon, I lost control of my breathing, emotions, and mind. I sat ‘in the depths’ on the floor, listening to recorded ocean waves and breaking in between counting box breaths and rolling with tired, angry, fearful tears, I did exactly what I didn’t want to do—I cried out to God. And waited. It takes courage to wait. Sometimes I can’t disengage from my doubts enough to be able to rest in God’s love—for my doubts are often about who I am, and about who God is, and I get stuck. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (v. 3) My waiting ended at my open windowsill on my knees, watching golden leaves fall, as the thoughts in my mind fell away, having no power to ultimately define me. The crescent moon rose over pink clouds. God conquers darkness with beauty and surprise. Still, we often have to wait for what it is we need to know. “But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.” (v. 4)
MCKENZIE KRAMER, MDIV SENIOR VICE MODERATOR OF THE ARTS COLLECTIVE 14 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Hebrews 11:18-20 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
This section of text comes in the middle of a lengthy reminder to “love the LORD your God and serve God with all your heart and soul.” (v. 13) The Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness hoping for a different way of life: a life less focused on acute survival and one that can truly embrace the ‘shalom’ peace that God has to offer. God makes the promise that not only will they prosper and encounter peace, but the land will also encounter peace and prosperity. “I will send rain on your land...I will provide grass in the fields.” (vv. 14-15) And here, the Israelites are called and asked to do everything in their power to remember these promises: wear them as visible signs on their bodies, plaster them all over their homes, and most importantly, pass them down through the generations. These promises are not just for the people who received them 3,000 years ago. We are still asked to love and serve God and God intends to hold to true to God’s promises. As often as you need, and as often as you can, remind yourself of God’s promises, for God has begun a good work and is faithful to complete it!
ALISA HOVAGIMIAN UNELL, MDIV/MACEF, YEAR 4 PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 15
Si mon e, I Put a Sp e ll o n Yo u 19 6 5
“Truly, I say unto you, today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
All we get is God...proclaiming God’s own greatness, forming a covenant, renaming Abram and Sarai, bestowing gifts and multitudes to Abraham and Sarah, and blessing the nations. This morning, or afternoon, or evening, whenever you read this, there are two invitations to you in this text; two invitations regarding courage. The first is to think of God as courageous. We do not often do this, for we often view courage as a response coming out of a place, position, or power that begins with weakness or fear. Perhaps we should rethink our ideas about courage and God. Perhaps it took great courage to trust, to partner with humanity for the work of God’s will in the world, just as it would later take great courage for Jesus Christ to carry a cross and continue toward crucifixion. The second invitation is to consider that our courage may not matter as much as we think it does, because this story is not about us, but about God. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Abraham’s courage isn’t mentioned...perhaps because he was terrified? Perhaps because it is God’s love and action that are courageous. And faithfully, this is enough courage for us all.
MOLLY RAMSEY, MDIV SENIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 17
Psalm 6 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” Cards on the table: I’m struggling. To say that this is nowhere near how I thought my first year of seminary would be is a massive understatement. To say I’m out of my depth doesn’t seem to fully encapsulate my emotions. To say I feel like a satellite, detached, out of my orbit, and drifting through space just watching things pass me by seems accurate. It’s not lost on me that this sounds like a cry for help, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one on some level. However, I think that’s my point. Psalm 6 is a prayer asking for help in no uncertain terms. In verse 2, the psalmist is languishing and makes their own cry for help, and I think that’s great. To ask for help takes great vulnerability and immense courage on any given day. The times we’re living in now contain historic amounts of grief and stress that could bring anyone to tears. If that happens to be you, then that’s okay. If you reach out before, during, and/or after the tears, then that’s okay. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
ETHAN PARK, MDIV JUNIOR 18 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Romans 1:16-25 I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [CEB]
Paul has courage. Anyone can tell you that. There are so many stories of Paul proclaiming the word of God, and being punished for it. Yet he keeps doing what’s right. I think that Romans 1:16 is especially good at saying this. Even though the book of Romans takes place after Jesus was crucified, he is still there. Verse 16 says, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God...” I think that the key part is the beginning, in which Paul says, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Sometimes, when people are scared, they get ashamed of whatever they believe in, denying it when people ask. An example of this is when multiple people ask Peter, “Do you know Jesus?” and Peter denies Jesus, because he is scared and ashamed. Not being ashamed of the gospel means not being ashamed of Jesus, who died on the cross for us. That was courage. During this Lenten time, it’s important that we not only think of Jesus dying for us, but also the people who came after him, the people who proclaimed his word, like Paul.
ELENA BARRETO, CHILD OF NT PROFESSOR DR. ERIC BARRETO PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 19
Psalm 27 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
Waiting is not passive. Like love, it is both a state of being and an activity. Psalm 27 speaks of fear, armies, and enemies. Yet the opposite of fear, it says, is “to live in the house of the Lord”—to simply be with God, trusting that God will “hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble.” In asking for this, is the psalmist avoiding the world, leaving it to itself and washing their hands of it? Are they choosing avoidance over courage? No. Instead, the psalmist is sure they will see the goodness of the Lord now, “in the land of the living.” This confidence, however, is born in waiting. The psalmist is not waiting for things to get better on their own, or for enemies to become changed. The psalmist is waiting on the Lord. Courage comes in waiting, not because it is passive avoidance, but because it is trust in the promise of God’s intervention. God is moving. So, we wait. That things are unfinished is implied. So, we wait.
CHELSEA WILLIAMS, PHD CANDIDATE, THEOLOGY 20 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 27 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
I have seen and felt fear bubble to the surface these past months. Family members, colleagues, friends, and I have all shown signs of anxiety or stress due to global, national, and personal circumstances. At times, the fear has been palpable and courage elusive. When fear overwhelms me and my own faith is shaken, I take comfort in the testimony to God’s strength and faithfulness found in the words of Psalm 27. I have found that when I lose my own footing, the faith of others steadies me for the road ahead. Psalm 27 declares, “The Lord is my light and my salvation! Whom shall I fear?” That confident declaration of the steadfastness of God reminds me that God will also “lead me on a level path.” Sometimes fear isn’t overcome by our own might or will but by having the goodness of God brought to mind by the faithful witness of another. In this Lenten season, may we find courage together as we wait for the Lord.
DAYLE ROUNDS, ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 21
John 5:30-47 I can do nothing on my own. [ESV]
“I can do nothing on my own.” Stunning words from the savior. It takes a certain kind of vulnerability and, dare I say, courage to make such a bold proclamation. I think for most of us it’s easy to say, yes, I cannot do things on my own, yet we often find ourselves trying to carry many burdens on our shoulders. The reason Jesus can so readily admit that he can do nothing on his own is because Jesus knows his life is about doing God’s will. His life is wrapped up in a purpose that stems from the calling God has on his life, which means that he is absolutely incapable of doing anything without God. This is freeing for Jesus. It’s freeing because he can courageously walk in his purpose without the pressure of trying to meet the world’s standards and expectations. Because the world does not define his purpose, only God does. Jesus sets an example for us to courageously admit our limitations. He shows us that when we do this, it allows God to come into our lives and use us, just like God used Jesus. To transform and change lives for the better. Now go!
JALEN BAKER, MDIV SENIOR MODERATOR OF THE ASSOCIATION OF BLACK SEMINARIANS (ABS) 22 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 31 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.
One of my favorite sermon illustrations consists of imagining a congregation as a symphony. At times, during a movement in a musical piece, one of the sections of instruments will not play while the rest of the symphony keeps performing. As this happens, the music continues through the other instruments while one section remains silent. Being a part of a congregation or a faith community means that when you feel that you cannot worship, the rest of the community will worship for you. In fact, all of creation continues to worship even when we feel that we cannot. â€œThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.â€? (Psalm 19:1) I appreciate Psalm 31:24 because the author directly addresses people who feel that the Lord is not present; those who are waiting on the Lord. We will all experience times in our life when we feel that the Lord is absent. In these difficult moments, I invite you to rest on the promise that all of creation worships even while we remain silent. The song of praise will continue, and creation will welcome us back when we are ready to join again.
MADELINE BAAS, MDIV SENIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 23
Courage to Fight O Fighter, Where is your courage to stand firm? Where is your wherewithal to stand tall? I’m writing this to confirm God won’t let you fall.
Still, lie to yourself remain small by choice not by evidence Go on thinking you remain here by accident
You may choose to face facts or Lie to yourself about present reality You could forever lie about everything. Everybody already knows so you can lie to them Lie to yourself too.
Let truth bloom from your mouth offer your insistence persistence resistance where there be doubt O Fighter Where is your courage to blossom? God created you to glorify Him How awesome!
That’s how fears remain assuaged Fears are illusions Ghosts at dusk Only love is real as common as dust If only we had courage to forge ahead and cultivate such high purpose If only we could see that God thinks we are worth it
24 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Where is your courage to press toward the light? Why don’t you catch the fire! Fighter, it’s time to ignite Catch the fire Do not shut it out For only the breath of God could snuff this precious flame out!
John 2:13-22 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
When I was a young evangelical student, the idea that Jesus “turned over tables” was constantly referenced as proof that Christians could be angry and confrontational. We were trying to free our voices and to protest injustice. We had good causes to defend but I also admit feeling we were like the prophetic Jesus. The muscular Jesus, flipping over tables. Cleaning out God’s house. Then I went into parish ministry. It was less muscular, less dramatic. I was forced to share the table with people I did not consider prophetic or even good. Sometimes, I sat and hated them silently. Other times, I would have sold anything at that table just to be loved. Perhaps sometimes, they even had cause to turn the table on me. Once or twice, I might have said I’m sorry. In time, I learned that all who gathered there belong to God’s house. There are two kinds of courage: one to flip a table, the other to take a seat. One to assert our silenced voices, the other to wait for the silenced to speak. One for dramatic prophecy, the other for a boring, stubborn, constancy. In each, to be consumed (perhaps changed) by zeal for God’s house.
SONIA WATERS, FACULTY, PASTORAL THEOLOGY PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 25
John 7:14-36 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, â€œYou know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know them.â€?
Imagine the festivalgoers in John 7. They had traveled into Jerusalem and built temporary dwellings to commemorate the tabernacles which their wandering Israelite ancestors used during the years following liberation from Egypt. They would identify with those ancestors and the oppressive agricultural life in a desert, the near-crushing weight of Empire. Their festival booths provided space for them to embody resistance by remembering their story. Imagine Jesus resonating with the masses in their makeshift shelters. In the ultimate act of resistance, Jesus took a human body and tabernacled among us to demonstrate that God, giver of abundant life, has always been on the side of the oppressed. Throughout his short ministry Jesus was misunderstood, rejected, and judged. I too have a complex story. When I share it, I risk misunderstanding, rejection, and judgment. Our stories will always baffle those who are waiting for systems to save them. Our lives are embodied acts of resistance against these systems that were never meant to make us thrive. For me, the reward of authentic and abundant life is worth the risk of this embodied resistance.
LINDSEY TROZZO (JODREY), ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL LEARNING 26 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Romans 4:13-25 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
I often ask for courage in my prayers. It is a virtue that does not come easily to me. I need help speaking out, trusting, and living in the assurance of God’s promises. And certainly, in this text, while Abraham is the father of both Jews and Gentiles united by faith in Christ, he is also a model of faith from which we can learn to be courageous. Abraham displays courage when he trusts in a God who promises to deliver a child to him and Sarah against all odds. This faith is counted to him as righteousness, though it says more about God’s character and gracious gift than Abraham’s ostensible virtue. The certainty of God’s promise compels Abraham to have faith and courage to endure through hardship. Abraham obtains this courageous faith, faith as the hope for the things to come, which is strengthened by the promises God has fulfilled in the past. Lord, we ask for this kind of faith to live in the assurance of your promise (Romans 4:2425). Give us the courage to trust you in all circumstances. Give us the courage to speak out against evil. Give us the courage to find rest for our restless hearts. Amen.
SAMUEL JANG, MDIV SENIOR MODERATOR OF THE ASIAN ASSOCIATION OF PTS (AAPTS) PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 27
Psalm 27 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in his temple. [ESV]
I always had a classic view of courage: the superhero power stance image. Someone who was bold and took risks. Someone who was never afraid. But then I realized that courage cannot exist without fear. We cannot rise mightily, courageously, without something to rise above. Then I was able to see the courageous are all around me. We rose above our fears of uncertainty. Our anxieties. Even when we didnâ€™t think we could, we pulled ourselves out of bed and went to our WebEx classes (and depending on our hair situations, perhaps without our screens on). We overcame new learning challenges, sometimes gracefully and sometimes impatiently. Every tear you shed, every migraine you endured, every friend you vented with, it all took courage. You have been so courageous. I realized that courage is not the superhero who can do everything. A courageous person is the person who makes mistakes. The person who is weary and needs rest. It is the person who will dwell in the house of the LORD and meditate in the LORDâ€™s temple. You have been so courageous. I hope this Lenten journey reveals this courage to you and gives you the space and freedom to dwell, to gaze, and to meditate on the Lord.
MICHAELA SILVIS, MDIV/MACEF, YEAR 3 CO-COORDINATOR FOR THE LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 28 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 91 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” [also see Reina-Valera 1960 translation]
When I lived in Honduras so many years ago, I noticed the prayers of the people began or ended reciting Psalm 91. Every child seemed to know this psalm and would repeat it before leaving the house. When I asked someone why, the answer was unexpected. “Invocamos la protección de Dios.” In a place where the unexpected was the norm, invoking the presence of God for protection was essential for life. I immediately recognized these prayers as the song I had learned as a child in church. El que Habita al Abrigo de Dios was written and composed by Rafael Cuna and his wife, Luz Rios de Cuna, in 1943, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Little did I know I would hear it sung in the faraway mountain village of El Porvenir in Honduras. As the first notes were sung on a chilly night in 1999, I immediately felt connected to a people I would soon call my own. I joined in song with them and the surprise on their faces told me they felt the same way about me. We were and will remain connected under the abrigo of the Altísimo until we meet again in eternity.
LISSETTE GONZALEZ SOSA, MDIV MIDDLER MODERATOR OF EN CONJUNTO PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 29
Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
Crying out from the depths is a real downer. We don’t cry out from the depths until things have gone seriously wrong. I’ve never cried out from the depths because Grubhub screwed up my order. I’ve never cried out because I was stuck in traffic. That’s a different kind of “crying out,” more like acting out (note to self, next time make sure the car seat is empty). No, we cry out when the bottom drops out, when death seems inevitable, when it looks like nothing will ever be the same again, when our world is completely shattered. In these moments hope sounds like utter nonsense. Songwriter Andrew Bird says it well in his song The New Saint Jude, “Ever since I gave up hope I’ve been feeling so much better.” These lyrics are superficially comforting and may provide a chuckle; however, choosing to hope in God’s steadfast love when things have gone seriously wrong takes serious courage. The wisdom of the psalmist is to simply wait. We are often told, “don’t just sit there; do something.” But the more courageous task is “don’t just do something; sit there.” May you have the courage to hope and wait when life goes seriously wrong.
DAVE WHITE, LICENSED PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR SPOUSE OF MDIV MIDDLER 30 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 143 Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
The past season has been tough. Like the ocean during a storm, it has felt like the waves have been huge and unrelenting as they piled on one after another, before the prior one receded out to sea. The stability of my footing has been challenged by a strong undercurrent. The waves are far bigger than me. They overwhelm my ability to see the shore sometimes. But I know it’s there. I count on it being there. I have chosen on many occasions to wade into rough waters, as a presence and voice in support of justice, equity, peace, and my brothers and sisters. Yet I repent for my own insufficiency. We are all capable of so much better. Like David who longed to hear the LORD’s voice of loving kindness, I pray to God. “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning.” Mornings have always felt like new beginnings, offering hope and possibility in my life. I walk every morning, lifting my soul to God, finding strength and feeling his loving presence. I seek direction for my feet. God is my shepherd and shelter. His love promises new beginnings. I count on that and will continue to pray unceasingly even through the storms that rage on.
LESLIE W. BRAKSICK, PHD, MPH VICE CHAIR OF THE PTS BOARD OF TRUSTEES PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 31
Black Is the Color
Si mone , B l ack Go ld 197 0
“Woman, behold thy son...behold thy mother.”
Numbers 21:4-9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed! [NLT]
“The Courage to Look Back” One of the most challenging things to do is to look back, especially when it means looking back on past mistakes and failures. When God asked the Israelites to look at the bronze snake, that is exactly what God was asking them to do. For them, the snake represented significant pain and extreme loss all caused by their own mistake. There was a time I had to look back at the “bronze snake” in my own life. Despite how difficult and painful it was to look at, I do not think I would be the person and minister I am today without having done it. God did not tell them to look back to torture them, God told them look back to heal them. The text says “look at the bronze snake and be healed!” When you look back, you will still see your mistakes because those things will not magically disappear, but with God you will not only see the mistake but the miracle. You will not only see the tragedy but the triumph. This story reminds us that God requires us to be an active participant in our healing. I encourage you today to name your bronze snake and find the courage to look back!
KAMARIA BYRD-MCALLISTER, MDIV MIDDLER PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 33
Psalm 145 & John 6 The Lord upholds all who are falling... And You offer them bread at the proper time. [Self-translation of Psalm 145:14a, 15b]
The invitation came last September to consider Psalm 145 and John 6 “through the lens of courage...in this season of my life.” The irony was risible. Stumbling, starving, I was a whimpering mutt, with tail tucked between its legs. I still am. My own hope remains in the LORD, whose majesty is equaled by goodness that watches with pity over all. Jesus is the prism through whom I most clearly see divine compassion focused on the famished, fed to their hearts’ content. In none of the Gospels is Jesus a coward. Unreservedly obedient to his heavenly Father, he is astonishingly free, unshackled from fear, independent of others’ estimates. Wellwishers cannot crown him. Only through voluntary crucifixion does Jesus reign. Christian disciples point to that Messiah. What this world despises as pusillanimity is in truth God’s redemptive audacity. All other courage is an illusion.
C. CLIFTON BLACK, OTTO A. PIPER PROFESSOR OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY 34 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 91 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty...
Psalm 91 draws exclusive hope from the presence of the Lord. In the face of deadly pestilence and death, the psalmist draws comfort and strength from the presence of God, sheltering their life at all times. God is a refuge, a shelter, an eagle with huge sheltering pinions. To understate the point, Psalm 91 hits different this year. Reading it reminds us that human frailty does not change, but neither do God’s promises and presence. In today’s gospel reading, Christ comforts his disciples terrified in the storm with the same assurance of presence: “don’t worry, it is I.” (John 6:20) As we move through Lent, reflecting on Christ’s journey in the wilderness and Christ’s sacrifice for us, may we be assured of God’s presence on the way. May we journey this season of reflection in the shadow of the Almighty, the shelter of the Most High, drawing courage from the Lord’s presence and assurance that “When she calls, I will answer her. I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.” (v. 15)
LESLIE VIRNELSON, PHD CANDIDATE, BIBLICAL STUDIES DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR THEOLOGY, WOMEN, & GENDER PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 35
Psalms 5; 147:1-11 God heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
In 2020 I reflected a lot on the character of God. The world was wrestling with the pandemic and I was confronting my own personal challenges. Depressing news played in the background of waiting rooms and hospital elevators. I thought about the state of the world and wondered, “God, is this really happening?” Perhaps the Israelites wondered if the dismal exile “was really happening” to them. Biblical references point to reasons why the Israelites were put in the hands of the Babylonians. During difficult times I search for reasons to justify my circumstances and I wonder if God sees me struggling to find an answer. In verse three, the psalmist testifies that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God saw the Israelites suffering in exile and intervened. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances, we must surrender to God. It is up to us to have courage to trust God to intervene. By God’s grace, God will heal and restore us leaving us to ask in awe, “Is this really happening?”
LYDIA TEMBO, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF RECRUITMENT 36 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
John 6:41-51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Reading this text immediately brings me to the communion table. These comforting words have been spoken so many times at the table of the sacrament of the Lordâ€™s Supper. Regardless of your denomination or where in the world you are located, these words and this sacrament are for you: a believer in Christ. That whoever shall eat this bread, the body of Christ, and believes in Him, shall have life eternal. There are so many different people here at PTSâ€”different denominations, races, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and reasons why we are all here. It is reassuring to hear these words that unite all of us. The lens of this Lenten series is courage, and I think one of the most courageous things we can do these days is to come together and see the tie that binds us instead of the earthly constraints that aim to tear us apart. Jesus is the bread of life. Amen.
REBECCA ROBERTS, STUDENT ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES OFFICE SPOUSE OF MDIV SENIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 37
Psalm 22 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
In 2001, not too long after the 9/11 attacks, anti-foreigner riots began to erupt in Indonesia. I was a missionary kid living in Indonesia at that time and attending an American mission school. Due to various threats, the school had to suddenly shut down in the middle of the semester and continue through remote/virtual learning. When PTS had to suddenly shift into this new norm in March of last year, the feelings of anxiety, panic, and frustration were all familiar. During such trying times, the word “courage” often seems to go out the window, and we are easily tempted to give up. But in today’s psalm, David reminds us that courage begins with acknowledging that we are afraid. It begins with admitting that we cannot do this alone without God. Amid this state of helplessness, we once again realize God’s existence. God has never actually left us. God hears even our smallest whimper. During this season of Lent, as we make our final push towards the end of this academic year, let us reflect upon the cross and remember that our hope and courage comes from the Lord. We have nothing to fear as our Redeemer is the source of our courage.
BYUNG HO CHOI, PHD STUDENT MODERATOR OF THE KOREAN STUDENT ASSOCIATION OF PTS (KSA) 38 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
Despite millennia of art, science, literature, and theology, “being human” seems as elusive as ever. What does it mean to partake in the human experience? In some ways I am unqualified to answer the question, just as all of us are ironically unqualified. And yet, I do know that anguish is a deeply human experience that touches every one of our lives. “Being human” necessitates an entanglement, however brief, with despair. It is no surprise then, that the Christian calendar is framed by this experience. We celebrate two long arcs of human suffering, misery, and anxiety when we celebrate the expectancy of Advent and the absurdity of Lent. I know that waiting and wandering are often horrific experiences. So, when I read this psalm, I catch a glimpse of an invitation. “The depths” of human life—Christian life—are not obstacles demanding resolution. They are companions, whether for better or for worse. As we confess God in the midst of “waiting” or “wandering,” we are confessing an inextricable link to anguish. We cannot escape the arms of our Advent and Easter God. God is our guide and friend, our fleshy-yet-divine partner in life and death, and anguish in between.
MICHAEL CUPPETT, MDIV/MACEF, YEAR 3 PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 39
Courage to Lament O, if my head were a fountain of tears! This pain of fear this sting that sears I could go on crying day and night Sit in a room with no lights feel the weight upon my chest weariness of bones dried by lament laid to rest in a bed of dead roses Yet I am proud to say I now know there is not any one way to lose the closest friend or spouse or parent or home or hope Each time another fades or loses at this game of life I realize that grief is not a common courage Nor as rare as diamonds If I could make them a girl’s best friend,
40 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Her name—Death O Death, where is thy sting? Is it in thy heart, or head or like salt trampled under foot? Hush, O Death, for you do not have the final say! O Grave, where is thy victory? Is thy victory of tears shed daily victory in wailing heard at Ramah Can one even speak of victory when death abounds? O, Yes because our Savior lives! O, Courage to rising again From a place called the Skull Jesus was hung But thanks be to God, which giveth us Victory which has been won through our Lord Jesus Christ God’s one and only son O Yes I say again The Victory has been won!
Psalm 119:9-16 With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.
Verse 10 feels like a Friday night in a pre-COVID Chicago bar. Your friend says, “Don’t let me drink any more,” as she smirks and brings that next pint to her lips. There’s absurdity in this piece of scripture coming from the mouths of people in antiquity or in Jersey. Because we’re creatures with free will. Because often, the vast majority of humanity is playing some variant of hide ‘n’ not-so-seek with their ability to enact justice within broken, corrupt systems. Talk of pure young people doesn’t do it for me. I’m more interested in saying, “God, I’m lukewarm today. Do not let me be hard on myself for the time it’s taking to recalibrate.” I think people of faith spend too much time promising unwavering faithfulness when we could be courageously confronting our collective blunders. Because we’ve strayed out of the commandments lane. We’re no longer even on the freeway. Our GPS is screaming, “there is a better route!!” while we autopilot our way deeper into exploitation town. God, we seek you when we can. It’s a mixed bag out here. Let us embrace that. Give us the courage to live with as much integrity as possible.
GAIL TIERNEY, MDIV SENIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 41
Psalm 121 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Psalm 121 has become one of my ‘go to’ psalms on days when the world is just too much. This is especially true now as we live through a pandemic. I find that I often glaze over verse 6, but in that one line comes the words we so long to hear: “God is with us!” Think about it for a minute—God is with us—every day, every night. God is there. Still, I know I often go about my days and nights not giving that a second thought. Yet, it is exactly because God is with me that I have had the courage to face whatever life throws at me. God is with us—in times of joy, times of mourning, and all the time in between. Perhaps in these in between times, if you are like me, you may lose track of God by our side. We lose track of God’s presence in the cooking, cleaning, work, shopping, laundry—in our everyday life. Sometimes it is the everyday life that takes the most courage—the courage to speak up, to show up, to love and care even when we feel like we are running on empty—for God is with us!
LORELEI ZUPP, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT OPERATIONS OFFICE OF ADVANCEMENT 42 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 34:1-22 Which of you desires life...? ...seek peace, and pursue it.
To desire life sometimes takes courage. When I was growing up in Congo, our family had to make visits to the US at intervals to help churches understand the ministry in Congo. When I was fourteen, we were due for another furlough and I was filled with dread. Even though Congo had seen civil war in those childhood years, it was home. I did not want to go so far away, where I knew no one except my immediate family. Reading my devotions one day, these words jumped out at me: “Which of you desires life…? [...] Seek peace and pursue it.” (I was actually reading from 1 Peter 3:10ff.) Rereading the passage later I realized that I had taken it too literally, but at the time it seemed to me that if I wanted to find life in the US desirable (or even bearable), I would have to seek peace. The words seemed like a prescription for my dread, a prescription for courage. The time in the US was a Third Culture Kid’s nightmare, but by God’s grace I knew where to find courage.
ELSIE MCKEE, FACULTY, HISTORY & ECUMENICS PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 43
Psalm 27 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
The strength of life. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” During this Lenten season, my hope and wish is for you to find courage in your daily life. When I look at my own life, I realize that every path I have walked I have seldom walked alone. I have always found courage and strength from those walking with me by my side. Take a look at the sky, we never know where it begins or where it ends. God’s love is deeply manifested within us, from our beginning to our end. Let’s continue with a stronger faith and trust the journey together.
MARTHA REDONDO, INTERNATIONAL ENROLLMENT & SERVICES ADVISER OFFICE OF MULTICULTURAL RELATIONS 44 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 102 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.
The superscript to this psalm states that this is a “prayer of one afflicted…before the Lord.” When it feels that we are caught the midst of a dark and eternal night, keep a record, says the psalmist, so that in the future we can look back and praise the LORD. At times when I find my strength waning, I too, keep a record. I write myself letters to be opened at a later date. And retrospectively, these letters always bear witness to God’s goodness and grace. Problems that once loomed over me and eclipsed my joy later become the source from which I am strengthened for today. Though faint and afflicted, the psalmist is hopeful. Hopeful not for something that has come to pass, but for something that is yet to be witnessed. Words of encouragement are offered, not just for the time being, but even for those who have yet to come into existence. There is hope for us that goes beyond the “here and now.” It is this kind of hope that, no matter how dark the night, gives us the courage to praise.
SHEHAN RODRIGO, MATS, YEAR 2 PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 45
Psalm 22 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
We petition God to stay close because we don’t want to be abandoned. We see trouble headed our way and cry out because it scares us. We whisper that there is no one to help because we feel alone. We can’t seem to shake it, and perhaps that’s just what today is going to feel like? Like the psalmist, we don’t have to be afraid to ask God for safety, support, and love when we feel isolated. We can cry out, question, and express our frustrations and sorrows. There is no hurt we are feeling that the incarnate God and the great cloud of witnesses have not felt before. Have the courage to feel what has shaken you and have the courage to ask God for what you need to make it through.
LESLIE ENID GIBOYEAUX, MDIV SENIOR & EMMA-CLAIRE MARTIN, MDIV/MACEF, YEAR 2, MODERATOR & SECRETARY OF THE GENDER & SEXUALITY ASSOCIATION FOR SEMINARIANS 46 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
Psalm 31 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, All you who wait for the Lord.
The first congregation that I pastored full time was Trinity United Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. When most folks think about St. Petersburg, it is quite common to have thoughts of vacations filled with time spent on beautiful sun-soaked beaches and palm trees swaying gently in the warm breeze. However, this description does not aptly describe the experience for a large segment of the population born and raised in the area. The membership of the Trinity congregation was (and still is) entirely African American. There I would hear of more than a few stories of the racial divide in the city that marked their history: segregated schools, restaurants, parks, and beaches. Following a hate-filled racially biased incident during my time as the pastor, I was approached by a white member from another church within the presbytery who asked, “How can the members of your church and community stay faithful in the midst of all that you have been forced to endure?” My answer was simple, “We trust in a God who is greater than all of this.”
JOHN WHITE, DEAN OF STUDENT LIFE & VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT RELATIONS PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 47
Ne Me Quitte Pas
Si mone , I Put a S pel l on Yo u 19 65
“My God. Why have you forsaken me?”
PALM SUNDAY | MARCH 28
Mark 11:1-11 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We are always looking for something, or someone, that can fix what is broken in us. That’s why we keep changing jobs and relationships and rearranging our lives. And it is why those along the road to Jerusalem shouted, “Hosanna!” when Jesus arrived. They had seen him heal the broken. Now he was riding into Jerusalem “on a colt, the foal of the donkey,” as the prophet Zechariah promised a savior king would do. But they didn’t expect the Messiah would borrow the young donkey. As Mark explains, Jesus told his disciples, “Go into the next village. As soon as you get there you will find a colt tied to a tree. Untie it and bring it to me. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” It is striking that Mark wants to make it clear that Jesus borrowed the colt. Why is that little detail of the story so important? I think it’s because when the Savior brings hope to the broken, he rides on the back of what you loan him.
M. CRAIG BARNES, SEMINARY PRESIDENT PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 49
Courage to Shine With Jesus we died yet in him we rise Rooted in shame We rise Was dead now alive We rise We rise We shine Everyone is a star meant to shine if you were punished for your sparkle if you were ostracized for living large treated like you were from mars It proves that, baby, you were born a star Everyone is a star meant to hurt the eyes Your future so bright, so bright you got to shade your eyes You are a star to sit in your presence is a prize
50 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
The Light of the World O God, you light our day Brilliant and radiant O God, again you’ve made a way! So in you we make our light shine before men When they see us working in your name they will all say amen And to you, All Glory’s will be given Because O God we know You’re the reason we’re livin’
Psalm 36:5-11 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
God’s steadfast love extends up to the heavens, God’s faithfulness up to the clouds. Isn’t it interesting that David describes God’s love and faithfulness as extending “upwards”? Although the Reformed insist that God is omnipresent and beyond the confines of space and time, in our ordinary God-talk, we tend to refer to God as being “up above.” According to this typical picture, God’s love should be “coming down.” And yet, if we follow the psalmist’s line of thought, God’s love and faithfulness begin “down” here below, with us, in our mundane experiences, in our daily lives. God, in this psalm, begins with where we are. It’s tempting to look for God in the “big” things, the things that are “up” and “high.” But this passage encourages us in this season, especially as we journey with our Lord Jesus on his march to Calvary, to recognize that God’s love for us begins here below. In fact, God’s love sunk to the depths of hell itself so that we, along with our risen Lord, may rise “up” to the heavens, to the clouds, carried by God’s love and faithfulness until we arrive in our final home.
ISAAC KIM, PHD CANDIDATE, THEOLOGY PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 51
Si mon e, W i l d Is the W i nd 19 6 6
Lilac Wine “I thirst.”
John 12:20-36 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
“He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (John 12:33) When Jesus said this, he knew that the adoring crowds of his Sunday entrance into Jerusalem were no longer cheering. He knew that the disciples were upset and would soon flee. He knew that he would face arrest, torture, and death alone. The disciples were no models of courage and neither are we. But the point of Holy Week is not their courage, or ours, but his. “Christ crucified.…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23ff.) “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” (Luther’s “Mighty Fortress”) And so we pray: “Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalm 71:3) Only then may we confess, with thanksgiving: “God has become my strength.” (Isaiah 49:5)
PAUL ROREM, FACULTY, MEDIEVAL CHURCH HISTORY PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 53
Courage to Give Up Be not afraid to press in Come nigh, for the journey is distant Draw near to God She will draw near to you Look about you enjoy what you see Because in life God calls us to give up many things Often we sacrifice our time, our money But I’ll gladly exchange my belongings For all the joy She brings Because only She can satisfy my longing There are seasons to have And times to have not But if you learn to be content with whatever you’ve got You realize that if all you have is God, That’s a whole lot God, you are my sustainer I’ve felt alone, but God has been the one remainder When I need to be held God’s my soul’s Sole retainer If I lose all else, I can celebrate that I have gained Her 54 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
I’m not defined by my possession Or how I can’t answer all life’s questions I’ve learned how God forgives transgressions No matter how great my accumulations I’ve learned nothing can top the intangible blessings God gives me the air I breathe To the the sower, She gives seed So in our abundance, even in giving up We can meet someone else’s need Because in having and having not Peace is what I’ve found I trust In God’s abilities to provide, I’m free from feeling bound Where I once felt denied I’ve learned to believe Thank you, O God I know you set me free In giving up, I’ve learned how to truly receive Whether I have or have not, the beauty of your presence is guaranteed!
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us...
I was running. I knew there were many paths to the finish line, but I doubted I was on one. I couldn’t find anyone I loved to help guide me or cheer me on. It wasn’t their fault; they were running, too. A lone oak tree materialized on my path and I found myself sitting beneath it. It had begun to rain and a song played. The rain’s pitter-patter formed a drumbeat as Kendrick Lamar’s words, “ain’t nobody prayin’ for me,” looped in my head and a hole opened up in my heart. Sleep tapped me on the shoulder, but before I turned to say hello, I remembered something. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me sit down underneath oak trees. He restores my soul. I cried for days and then finally greeted sleep. When I returned to the world, still no one was around to pray for me, so I thought, “to heck with it.” I closed my eyes and prayed for myself. I said amen. Jesus said amen. I got back up and began running again, looking back only once to take in my oak tree which had burst into flames.
JACKIE RODRIGUEZ, MDIV SENIOR PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 55
Si mone , Paste l B lu es 19 65
Strange Fruit “It is finished.”
MAUNDY THURSDAY | APRIL 1
John 13:1-7 Jesus loved them to the end.
So much of this Maundy Thursday evening is about Jesus’ conviction and courage. With betrayal and death pressing in, Jesus gathers for a farewell meal with his beloved disciples. Before bread is broken, Jesus ties a towel around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet. Jesus’ courage to love and serve his friends until the end touches my heart. A few years ago, my husband and I gathered in Manhattan with three of our beloved friends: Karen, David, and Bob. We were all especially eager to see Bob who had been ill. We did not realize just how ill Bob was until we saw him. As we shared great food and stories and memories at our favorite restaurant, I realized that this was our farewell meal with Bob. He came to love us to the end. A few weeks later when we gathered for Bob’s memorial service, we celebrated his life eternal; but it was that meal that comforted my heart the most. I wonder if the farewell meal that Jesus shared with his beloved friends carried them all through the devastating two days that followed. I imagine it did. Jesus’ courage to love to the end.
JAN AMMON, MINISTER OF THE CHAPEL PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 57
Courage to Die God took the dirt And made Adam dirt proved to be rich with nutrients because of composition and decomposition muck that makes us mumble and grumble against Adonai Adonai took upon the task of making someone that Would be felt by hands Known by hearts Judged by eyes Loved into fullness Creator meets creation in the process of fading away, Cascading into graves But legacies live on For dear life We hold on Praying to God to keep us strong
58 | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 2021
If folks turn gray What does it mean to die everyday? Paul said To live is Christ to die is gain To have the faith of a baby Is like asking Jesus to come save me No longer submitting to a yoke of slavery Calling out to God Seeking help takes bravery Because when all hope is lost Picking up my cross Comes at a greater cost And I know my savior uttered “Peace” to the storm When the seas leave this ship Tossed, wrecked, and worn. So I’m glad my God is beside me when I mourn Surely, in my lament My spirit can be reborn.
GOOD FRIDAY | APRIL 2
Psalm 22 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
During this past year, how often have you called out for help? Or felt alone? Abandoned? Forsaken? I’ve lost count of the words of my groaning over this past year. I can’t help but hear Psalm 22 differently this year. The psalmist’s prayer indeed is still an impassioned cry for help. But in addition to the pain and plea of the psalmist’s request, I hear the confidence and courage of an individual whose faith is steadfast. Asking for help is an act of courage. In uttering this prayer from the cross, Jesus joins in the anguished cries of those afflicted and suffering: those who “cry out to God by day but hear no answer and find no rest at night” (v. 2) and those who are still confident to say, “yet, God is holy.” (v. 3) The psalmist’s trust in God’s faithfulness in the past enables them to demand, “God come quickly to my aid and be not far away,” as the plea for help becomes a hymn of praise and confidence in God’s eventual response. (v. 19) As we listen today at the foot of the cross, may we find the courage to pray, ask for help, and contemplate why. And may we wait in confidence: Sunday will come.
MELISSA D. HAUPT, PROGRAM AND PUBLICATIONS MANAGER CHAPEL OFFICE PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 59
Everything Must Change
Si mon e, Bal ti more 19 78
â€œFather into thy hands I commit my spirit.â€?
Courage to Spring Up Before was living so hard? When 2020 feels like a massive graveyard Death seems to happen with ease It is living with death that gives us dis-ease Death has spoken far too much To death’s long speech, I must rebut Today, we speak life, we breathe life For YHWH is but a breath of letters inexpressible For the power of life and death is on the tip of the tongue For where death abounds The potential for revival has sprung! Behold! A new thing springs up Springs forth It is tangible, untouchable, indescribable Do you see it? Can you feel it? Can you hear it? God is stilling speaking Fresh life amid ferocious death Contagious joy in exchange of copious tears
New beauty for bountiful ashes It springs up, do you perceive? It springs up and with it so do we! We spring up like the sun in the east We will rise Life tried to bury us because we were seeds Seeds to one day rise blown by the common breeze Scorched by the sun We just go on growing Until God says “You’re done” So in this race I promise to run Springing forth with grace I spring out Loving each day by one Because If I’m being honest I’m just a seed, my life has only just begun
PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 61
New World Coming
Si mone , H er e C omes t he S u n 1971
The Resurrection of Courage
EASTER SUNDAY | APRIL 4
John 20:1-18 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, “Mary.” He called Mary by name and assured her that He was alive. In religious life, we long for calls this obvious, for signs that He is still alive and engaged with us. Our work is incomplete without a promise that we are here to serve and that it is God’s will. Many times, the burdens feel so heavy that the still small voice is stifled amid personal and societal chaos. We are enduring a global pandemic, racial reckoning, and democratic upheaval. What binds us as a Christian community, with our anxieties and differences, is that we know God is calling us even in the midst of all of this. Jesus calls you. And me. He is alive. And we must answer, “Teacher!,” and announce to everyone that he has risen; that there is hope.
SUSHAMA AUSTIN-CONNOR, PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR CONTINUING EDUCATION AND THE CENTER FOR BLACK CHURCH STUDIES PTSEM.EDU/LENT2021 | 63
Artist Statement This visual collection is punctuated by the seven last recorded words of Jesus as he faces execution and is carried along by a curated musical liturgy as sung by Nina Simone. The courage of Jesus in facing capital execution in fulfillment of a cosmic mission, alongside the courage of Miss Simone to challenge the assumed whiteness of classical music and channel music as divine storytelling, moves us to remember that Lenten season is as much about action and transformation as it is about contemplation and reflection. May we contemplate the journey of Christ and the sounds of Nina Simone as we face the daunting tasks of mustering the courage to transform the world around us through the gifts that burn within us. CARMELLE BEAUGELIN, PROGRAM COORDINATOR THE INSTITUTE FOR YOUTH MINISTRY
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, ÂŠ1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America unless otherwise marked. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Last year, during Lent, our world dramatically changed. This Lent we are still navigating the currents of a global pandemic. This Devotional...