2021 Lenten Meditations
All Saints is using the Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) 2021 Lenten Meditations as our source of meditations. You can click here to view the online brochure or visit here for daily updates.
Because of the magnitude of our collective losses, ERD decided to focus on lament as the theme for the 2021 Lenten Meditations. In fact, writing openly about lament is difficult. Especially when so many of us have lost so much. One might ask, “Why should I appear mournful when others have lost so much as well?” This Lent, we invite you to take some time to lament that which you and others have lost.
This year for the ERD Lenten Meditations ten writers were invited to share reflections on each of these four steps of lament. These writers are all leaders in The Episcopal Church and represent a diversity of perspectives, ministries and backgrounds.
Please note: During Lent, each Sunday provides a sabbath from Lenten fasts, and we do not publish meditations on Sundays. As each Sunday is a “little Easter,” we invite you to reflect on Christ’s life-giving love on these days.
Ash Wednesday, February 17
That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.” —Exodus 5:6-9
Rest is the first phase of lament. Until we step back from the demands of our daily routine to rest and reflect, it is challenging to process difficult events. We struggle to find meaning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic a year after it began. Some individuals had the option of working from home. However, not everyone was afforded this luxury. Plenty of people traveled to work, including first responders and medical personnel, grocery store stockers and gas station clerks. The demands placed upon these essential workers increased during the pandemic. Like the Israelites who labored as enslaved persons during Pharaoh’s reign, our essential workers had to do more with less. They were required to make bricks without straw.
What does lament look like when you are too exhausted to rest? How can those who enjoy the privilege of determining our work conditions support our neighbors who have few options? Prayer is certainly part of this equation, and yet our baptismal covenant calls us to do much more than pray. During Lent, commit to a weekly act of kindness for essential workers in your community.
Thursday, February 18
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. —2 Corinthians 12:9
Our world was turned upside down when our eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. The next day we were in the hospital for treatment.
She was scared, and in so much pain, I had to help her use the bedside commode. Afterward, she asked with tears in her eyes, “How am I going to do this?” I was at a loss for words. My mind was racing, thinking about years of treatment, medications and hospital visits, and filled with overwhelming fear for my daughter.
I said a quick prayer, and a song came to my mind. It was the old Patsy Cline country-gospel version of “One Day at a Time.” I always made fun of Patsy Cline’s singing but had not thought of it in thirty years. I told my daughter, “We’ll get through this one day at a time.” That calmed her, and it also calmed me. It seemed to slow things down. “One day at a time” became the theme for her as we all focused on beating the cancer day by day, not getting ahead of ourselves because that would be too much.
We found rest and renewal in God’s grace as his grace proved to be sufficient.
Friday, February 19
The quest is nurture. It is humility. It is not a test of how strong and brave a person can be, but rather, how vulnerable she or he can be.
—Steven Charleston The Four Vision Quests of Jesus
Resting can mean a time of relaxing or a time of quiet for metamorphosis, quiet to hear the still small voice of God, quiet to allow the Holy Spirit in, quiet to allow for transformation. In my Lakota culture and others, when we need guidance, rightrelationship and to lament, we Hanbleciya (cry for a vision). Traditionally, we would go “sit on the hill” by ourselves, fasting and praying. It is a time for reflection, vulnerability and finding our way back into right-relationship with the Creator, with creation and with ourselves.
In the past year, we have all experienced grief, loss and pain. We are left questioning many things. For some, that has included our faith and our God. Yet sometimes in our deepest sorrow, in what we think is our lowest point, in that messy, ugly-crying space, the Holy Spirit can transform us. This is the time to cry for a vision. This is the time to fast, pray and find our way back into right-relationship. This is the time to listen for God and be transformed.
It is difficult to hear God when I’m too busy to pray or think. If my mind is occupied with Facebook or Twitter and my heart with fear or anxiety, where is the room for God’s love, messages and gifts to fit? Your prayer space need not be a church or a quiet place. I often feel God’s presence and voice while listening to music or going for a walk. While God can speak to us anywhere, think about creating time and space to hear her.
—Isaiah “Shaneequa” Brokenleg
Saturday, February 20
I find rest in God. —Paraphrase of Psalm 62:1
When I was a teacher, I used to tell everyone that Saturday was my day to sleep late. Every other day, I had to wake up before 7 a.m. So, on Saturdays, I would make sure my room was super dark, and my son knew not to wake me up unless there was an emergency.
I wish I could still do that. I wish I could go into my room, make everything dark, turn everything off and rest. But, probably like many of you, I can’t. Not now. Not during the pandemic. Not with the weight of survival on my back. Not with video after video of my murdered siblings. Not with my brown son driving without me. Not with yet another trailblazer passing on.
These days, as the whole country seems dark with killings, continuing deaths from the pandemic and never-ending racial injustice and fear, I do believe there is a spark waiting to get my fire going. I do believe that spark is God. And, I do believe God continues to help me rest even when my whole body is on alert.
—Sandra T. Montes
Sunday, February 21
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day all those who have died in the past year. We thank you for giving them to us, their family and friends, to know and to love as companions on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —The Book of Common Prayer, p. 493
Monday, February 22
They stood still, looking sad. —Luke 24:17b
Growing up in South India, I noticed how hard some communities worked and how invisible they still were. One such was a subset of the Dalits—formerly known as “untouchables”—often referred to as Safai Karmachari, a community of manual scavengers. They cleaned latrines in cities and rural communities. For my doctoral research, I interviewed Ramakka on August 9, 2002. She was fifty-two and had been a manual scavenger since she was fifteen. It was disgusting work—cleaning other people’s excreta, collecting them in baskets and carrying these loads on her head—work she had done since her childhood days.
I used to think that rest was about the restoration of lost strength. For millions of people around the world, like Ramakka, rest is a restoration of lost dignity. That realization is their rest, their pause and their inner hope. Luke tells us of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, troubled by the execution of Jesus. They stood still, looking sad when the risen Christ intervened. They paused to assess their sorrow and were clearly irritated by the stranger. Yet this story reminds us that a curious stranger noticing and asking a question can help to initiate rest amid the normalized malaise of dehumanization.
During the pandemic’s imposed pause on our lives, we noticed a few things: that the coronavirus impacts Latino, Black and Native communities disproportionately; that we have treated African Americans as less than human; and that the earth rested. Out of our rest, stillness and lament, will we rise as a gentler and more just humankind?
Tuesday, February 23
And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. —Mark 6:32
Taking pause in our spiritual journey is life-giving. Jesus understands this need for a pause in our lives to move us into a time of rest and meditation. Jesus shows us in Matthew how we may reflect, pray and draw strength from the One who is allknowing and all-powerful in the way of the cross. Jesus goes to God for divine strength in his sacred heart, that special quiet place where he and God meet intimately. Jesus, in his knowing, takes his disciples to a deserted place by themselves to rest for a little while, where God might enter through their powerlessness and renew them with God’s strength.
My experience of rest has been in the outdoors, listening among the trees, plants and waters. I seek strength from God in these moments of rest. I experience my powerlessness. I am shown humility. When our bodies are exhausted from the stresses of life’s terms, the Divine Spirit reminds us that we, too, need to take pause in our spiritual journey to divert to a lonely place and rest. Jesus is eternally present, ready to hear and listen to our sacred hearts comforted by words of harmony, Hozhó—Peace be with you.
Wednesday, February 24
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. —Matthew 14:13a
In late summer, my husband and I went hiking in Harriman State Park in New York. It was a brief escape from New York City after many months of being trapped in our one-bedroom apartment as a result of COVID-19. Within ten minutes of walking in the woods, my cell phone service went out, and I suddenly realized I was more disconnected from the outside world than I had been in months. No more texts; no more news alerts; no more emails. For a full hour, it was just footsteps in the woods until we arrived at a clear blue lake.
When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s violent and unjust death at the hands of Herod, his response was to withdraw in a boat to a deserted place by himself. I find comfort in the fact that even Jesus had to step away to take in the full scope of John’s tragic death and all that it might mean.
On that lakeside, sitting in the shade of a tall pine tree, I thought about the violence and tragedy that we had briefly left behind: the morgue trucks outside the hospitals; the sudden increase in desperation and homelessness in our neighborhood; and murderous police brutality. It was a moment of holy respite that allowed us to return and recommit to building a more just future.
—Miguel Angel Escobar
Thursday, February 25
For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. —Psalm 62:1
When I was a little girl, there were very few moments of silence around me. In our Dominican and Haitian household, space was always filled with loud conversations, church services, colorful music and the sounds of moto-taxis passing by. Now fastforward to 2021: silence, unrest and uncertainty surround me. So, I cry out; I cry out to the Lord in despair, pleading that neither the silent pandemic nor the loud and unjustified hatred towards my people ends up hurting or taking away those I love the most.
Yet, during these trying times, I find myself needing to use that same silence to recharge, to pause and to actively figure out the best way to heal from all this hurt and uncertainty. And although it’s challenging to live with the fear of loss, I faithfully wait for God’s promise of salvation, but I no longer wait alone. I’ve found a community of loving, resilient and dedicated people who have shown me that united in bonds of love, we will continue to walk forward together.
Friday, February 26
You will not let my eyelids close; I am troubled and I cannot speak. —Psalm 77:4
Nothing may be one of the best things you can do. One day every week. Do nothing. —greensabbathproject.net In a class on practicing a green sabbath (a sabbath that reduces our carbon emissions), my classmate pondered, “How can I take rest when there are those who cannot?” I pondered in return, “How can we not take rest? We need the energy for others.” We agreed with each other: we cannot take our rest for granted.
Throughout this harrowing pandemic, my colleagues and I led virtual trainings about maintaining personal resilience in a time of disaster. Often these trainings come at the invitation of a bishop who is trying to get staff and clergy to rest. In the training, we talk about the consequences of not resting; we can lose our minds, our faith or even our lives. While the option to rest is a privilege, if we give this one up, there can be serious consequences.
This past summer I had a lot of guilt about not going into the streets to protest racial injustice. But the truth is I am tired. I am weary because of the compounding harm of multiple traumas from pandemic to racial injustice. Therefore, I had to prioritize my health. So, I got into a car with my good friend for a day trip to my spiritual home, Nelson Pond in New Hampshire. As I sat on the familiar rock, breathing fresh air, the rejuvenating spirit of God blessed me. I looked around and reconnected with God’s creation, and indeed, it is very good.
In what way are you able to rejuvenate your spirit today?
Saturday, February 27
I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety. —Psalm 4:8
It may seem out of place to be talking about rest. We live in troubled and hurried times. Everyone has been forced to change their routine. The number of people suffering from sleep disorders and insomnia is on the rise; others can sleep, but their minds find no rest. Yet resting is vital for our physical, mental and spiritual health. Spiritual health requires spending quality time resting and meditating.
Let’s go back to the ninth century bce. In the midst of a crisis, King David expressed his total trust in God. At the time, he felt unjustly persecuted and slandered, so he cried out with hope that God would intervene. In response, he received peace “that surpasses all understanding.” This made him forget his life’s tragedies. He slept in divine calm—a peace that no commotion could interrupt.
Today I’m inviting you to offer your thoughts to God and to rest in God so that you may receive that same peace in your body, mind and spirit. “For only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” All those who put their faith and hope in God will dwell in safety!
Sunday, February 28
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen. —The Book of Common Prayer, p. 815
Monday, March 1
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God...But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. —Acts 7:54-60
Acknowledging the enormity of what you have suffered is part of the process of lament. When we name the injuries inflicted upon us, we expose our wounds to God’s healing mercies. Remembering is a difficult aspect of lamenting. On the one hand, those who have lost loved ones to senseless violence demand that we remember their names. On the other hand, retelling the story can bring back all of the painful emotions and unresolved grief. There is no simple way to navigate this process.
Holy Scripture does not overlook the details of heinous events, which suggests that there is power in remembering. The ultimate sacrifice was Jesus’ death on the cross for the salvation of the world. But Jesus was not the only innocent person killed for their beliefs. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the rage that was triggered when Stephen accused his listeners of contributing to Jesus’ death. I can only imagine what Stephen’s family felt when they learned of his fate. Families continue to experience shock and pain when a loved one is murdered. Do you have a story of personal loss that you have never shared? Tell your truth to one trusted friend or colleague. There are others who are willing to shoulder this burden with you.
Tuesday, March 2
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God. —Leviticus 25:38
In Leviticus 25, God calls his people to remember their origin story as slaves brought out of the land of Egypt. However powerful and wealthy they might have become in the centuries since, God insists that the memory of their past as liberated slaves and sojourners in a foreign land should guide how they treat the most vulnerable among them.
God ascribes a moral weight to memory. Descendants of exploited slaves have a special obligation to treat laborers fairly. Children of refugees must welcome the stranger. Liberated slaves should not make loans that entrap the poor in the slavery of debt.
This is one of the many reasons I am so proud to serve on the board of Episcopal Relief & Development. This ministry helps Episcopalians reconnect with the moral significance of our ancient past and offers all of us ways of living out God’s call to care for the most vulnerable in our midst. What are the stories that help you remember who you are?
—Miguel Angel Escobar
Wednesday, March 3
The Spirit of God is within me. The Spirit of God walks with me. The Spirit of God teaches me about my faith to trust in Jesus to lead me through grief and darkness. Jesus holds my hand. He leadeth me by faith that lights up my path in the harmony way.
—God Shil Yi’ash
“He Leadeth Me”
Navajo Hymns of Faith
This is a familiar hymn to elderly Navajo Christians. I remember while growing up in my faith community among elderly Navajo women, they loved to sing this hymn because it was their faith walk with Jesus. Navajo elders are beloved and known for their strength, hope and resiliency. It is through the example of their faith that we remember to walk in faith with God in Jesus for comfort, assurance, guidance and direction.
I remember the times when I heard the elderly women share about joys and hardships in our language of Diné. The word spoken was indé—“and yet”—was about hope, faith and trust in the divine guidance. They remembered through their faith, prayers and songs how the Spirit of God taught them to trust in Jesus to lead the way into joy and harmony.
I am reminded at this time in Lent, God in the Spirit walks beside us, teaching us to hope, trust and hold to the faith of Jesus.
Thursday, March 4
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away. —Deuteronomy 6:6-7
I often wonder, are we speaking the truth of our reality? Are we taking advantage of our time together to listen to each other with an open heart? I often wonder.
A while ago, I was with two friends having a conversation about the power that words have to define future generations. As the conversation went on, we started putting together a collage of words we’ve heard our parents say as they’ve shared stories about our ancestors. They are of European descent while I am of African descent, but words such as cruelty, darkness and sacrifice were prevalent for the three of us. After processing the conversation, I realized that I could not forget the roots of my truth, nor let my story be lost. I have to continue to name it, talk about it when I’m at home and when I’m away, with everyone I love and with anyone I encounter. Not only to give importance to the lives of those that came before, but to open the door for new and life-giving conversations that will then create a different collage with words such as love, reconciliation and beloved community.
Friday, March 5
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. —Luke 23:42
O you tears, O you tears, I am thankful that you run. Though you trickle in the darkness, You shall glitter in the sun. The rainbow cannot shine if the rain refuse to fall; And the eyes that cannot weep are the saddest eyes of all. —Charles Mackay “Tears” (updated)
One morning when I was a little boy in Chennai, India, the Dhobi brought laundry that had been washed, pressed and neatly wrapped in old newspaper. He sat on the floor as was customary, given the caste hierarchy. I vividly remember my mother insisting that he sit on the chair. She then served him tea and biscuits. Mom was a social worker who pioneered non-formal education among women in the slums of Chennai. She died in January 2020. I have great memories of her kindness and generosity of spirit, but most importantly, I remember her agency to correct wrongs in society. Mom had a rough life with challenges, but she never lost a sense of who she was and the difference she could make as a child of God. Her sufferings helped hone her capacity for empathy as an educator.
Jesus suffered. All of us suffer in small and large ways. Yet some of us become empathetic while others of us become bitter. Jesus modeled how to re-member us. We can become agents who help create slivers of paradise here and now. How can I help re-member my community?
Saturday, March 6
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. —Luke 6:27
My childhood pastor used to tell us, “You gotta love everybody, chil’ren, even white people.”
I’ve often reflected on that statement’s simplicity and complexity in situations where people were hard to love. Surprisingly, the most difficult times weren’t when I first heard the “N” word, or the guy who bullied me (until I had enough) or when someone wronged me. I had the most difficulty loving my enemies when I never met them like the drug dealers down the street that I fought but never knew and those we stereotype so we can more easily label them as racists, liberals, conservatives, black people, white people, criminals and immigrants. Not knowing them makes them faceless and easier to demonize and hate.
But how can we love people we don’t know? How can we say we love everyone but support children of immigrants being separated from their families, scream obscenities at the police officer we’ve never met or get our guns ready because the evil protesters are coming for us? This is fear, not love. We have to do what it takes to know the “other” so that we can love our enemies.
I remember my pastor saying, “You gotta love everybody, chil’ren, even, [insert the group you struggle with].” God give us the strength to know and to love, even our enemies.
Sunday, March 7
Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to your never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that you are doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —The Book of Common Prayer, p. 831