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Resource: A Lenten Journey of Confession and Action

Often when we think about a Lenten spiritual discipline we think of giving up something for that season. But the purpose of a Lenten spiritual discipline—to grow closer to God—also allows us to take this time to intentionally and regularly practice an action that we want to become a discipline in our lives. This year we want to invite you to practice confession, lament, and doing justice during Lent. Below you’ll find an introduction to those disciplines, a reminder that we practice those disciples within a framework of grace as redeemed people, and a weekly Lent plan to incorporate those disciplines.

Doing justice can be a spiritual discipline along the lines of other spiritual disciplines. Seeking the well-being of others before seeking our own does not come naturally to us as sinful people; we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbor (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day One, Q & A 5). Our sinful nature is not only at play in us as individuals and in our relationships, but is also built into the systems in which we operate. The brokenness of these systems often manifests itself in barriers for the flourishing of all—barriers to Shalom—especially for the most vulnerable populations of our society. Our sinful nature also means that we want quick fixes and easy answers. But as difficult as it is, God calls us to live into the complexities of redeeming those broken systems. This is where the disciplines of confession and lament come in. When we confess the ways that we seek our own well-being before that of others and the ways that we participate in those broken systems, we are acknowledging that we are sinners saved by grace alone.

When we confess the ways that we seek our own well-being before that of others and the ways that we participate in those broken systems, we are acknowledging that we are sinners saved by grace alone.

As we are forgiven by God’s immense grace, we are also set free and empowered, through the Holy Spirit, to live more fully into the example of self-giving love Christ sets for us. That's why this Lent plan includes not only confession and lament but also concrete ways to practice doing justice. As we practice the discipline of loving our neighbors, we are conformed more and more into the image of God. We seek justice for others because God calls us to be a blessing to others, but in doing justice we also realize that our well-being is deeply connected to the well-being of people around the world. We realize that in seeking justice we not only demonstrate the character of God to others, but we also learn more about the character of God from the vulnerable people we partner with to seek justice.  

Last but not least, we need to remember we confess and lament as forgiven sinners and that we do justice out of a framework of grace, knowing that God is redeeming the world--not us on our own power. We are called to confess our sins and repent, not one time but over and over again. Yet God doesn’t leave us there. He constantly shapes and molds us closer to his image and uses us in his plan to redeem our world and remove the barriers in our systems that prevent others from flourishing. So we don’t practice justice out of fear, guilt, or need to fix the brokenness all on our own. That’s why we have included a version of the following refrain at the end of each week:

“Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw all of us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for all of our neighbors and all of creation. God is redeeming his world.”

 

Note: The schedule begins on Wednesdays, since Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Week 1: refugees

Wednesday: Choose a Scripture passage from this list of passages about “the stranger” from the Journey With Me toolkit and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Thursday: Idea for action: Print out one of these signs and put it in your window or on your lawn.

Friday: Read this sermon from Rev. Michael Abma. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Saturday: Idea for action: Look through the Journey With Me toolkit and think about one way your church could talk about the call to welcome refugees. Send a resource from the toolkit to a worship leader, children’s ministry leader, or pastor at your church.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for refugees. God is redeeming his world.

Monday: Read the Prayer of Confession, alone or with a group, on page 5 of this Journey With Me resource.

Tuesday: Idea for action: Speak up for refugees. Take this action alert from the Office of Social Justice (if you’re in the U.S.) or this action alert from the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue (if you’re in Canada).

Week 2: abortion

Wednesday: Meditate on this prayer of lament for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Thursday: Idea for action: Use this map to find a local pregnancy resource near you and call them to ask about ways you can volunteer there.

Friday: Read this article titled “The Secret Shame of Abortion in the Church” and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Saturday: Idea for action: Read this article titled “We Need to Talk About Abortion” and think about one thing your family or your congregation can do to create safe spaces for talking about abortion with grace and truth.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for unborn children. God is redeeming his world.

Monday: Meditate on Isaiah 49. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Tuesday: Idea for action: Ask your church to participate in Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Visit this page for worship resources to help your church honor the day.

 

Week 3: undocumented immigrants (U.S.)

For Canadians: Work through week 2 of this prayer guide for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Wednesday: Read this sermon about immigration titled “God’s Heart for Immigrants (Like Us)” and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Thursday: Idea for action: Visit blessingnotburden.org and learn about all the ways that immigrants bless our lives, communities, churches, and country as a whole. Then, sign the pledge to change the conversation about immigrants in the U.S. and share what you learned with others.

Friday: Meditate on Matthew 25. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.  

Saturday: Idea for action: Encourage your congregation to become a Matthew 25 congregation. Matthew 25 congregations work to carry out our Christian commitment to protect the vulnerable people in the U.S. through actions like: getting informed, being active truth-tellers, being in intentional relationships with immigrants, and bearing one another’s burdens.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for immigrants. God is redeeming his world.

Monday: Read this short interview with Sarahi, an immigrant from Mexico, and meditate on her response to the question: what would you change about our immigration conversation in the USA? If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Tuesday: Idea for action: Speak up for immigrants. Take this action alert to urge your senators to support actions that protect DREAMers.

 

Week 4: religious persecution

Wednesday: Read through this litany for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, alone or in a group. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.  

Thursday: Idea for action: Learn about religious persecution here. Pray over the examples of religious persecution mentioned, and thank God for the signs of hope listed as well.

Friday: Choose one of the Scripture passages from this resource and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Saturday: Idea for action: If your church hasn’t observed the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, consider asking your worship director, pastor, or church council to consider marking the day this year. Find resources here.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for people who are persecuted because of their religion. God is redeeming his world.

Monday: Choose another Scripture passage from this resource and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Tuesday: Idea for action: If you live in the U.S., visit this Pew Research page about the persecution of Muslim people in the U.S. If you live in Canada, read this Global News story. Pray for your Muslim neighbors’ safety and flourishing.

 

Week 5: Indigenous justice

Wednesday: Read the Belhar Confession and meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Thursday: Idea for action: Visit native-land.ca to learn about the Indigenous group that lived or lives where you now live.

Friday: Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 and the “Day One” reflection from this devotional from Rev. Dan Brown. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Saturday: Idea for action: If you haven’t yet participated in the Blanket Exercise, visit this page to learn more and contact a facilitator. If you have participated already, pray for the work of the facilitators who are leading this exercise in churches and schools across the continent, that they may have wisdom and strength for the work. Think of another place where it could be facilitated and take one step to bring it there.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for Indigenous people. God is redeeming his world.

Monday: Read Exodus 20:4-6 and the “Day Three” reflection from this devotional. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Tuesday: Idea for action: If you are Canadian, visit this Centre for Public Dialogue action alert to learn about and advocate for equitable funding for Indigenous kids’ education. If you are American, visit this page to find a list of possible ideas for action.

 

Week 6: creation care

Wednesday: Meditate on Genesis 1 and this Good Seed Sunday devotional. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Thursday: Idea for action: Read about these four concrete steps for incorporating creation care into your church’s worship. Choose one of them to act on.  

Friday: Watch this 6 minute video: “Religion has nothing to say about climate change, right?” Meditate on it. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Saturday: Idea for action: Check out this Climate Witness Project guide to reducing your church’s energy consumption and talk with people at your church about making one change.

Sunday: Rest in the complete sufficiency of God’s grace to forgive you and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw all of us, in community, towards a greater, more active love for creation. God is redeeming his world.  

Monday: Meditate on Psalm 104 and this blog post titled “The Biblical Case for Creation Care, from a Science Professor”. If a confession rises in your heart, pray it.

Tuesday: Idea for action: Contact your representatives about your concerns about climate change. Take this action alert from the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue (if you’re in Canada). Learn how to contact your representatives with this advocacy page from our Climate Witness Project (if you’re in the U.S.).

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