Category: Lent

Prayers4Peace: Easter Sunday of Lent 2024

The Path of Building Just Peace, Easter Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Susan Hayward

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

The path of building just peace, much like the path of faith, is not for the faint of heart. We do not choose to trod it because it’s an eternal conga line of delights. More often than not, our glimpses of heaven along the peacebuilding path are fleeting in the face of daunting, heavy assaults on human dignity wrought by the world’s systems, human cruelty, or indifference. But we walk this path because we know there is no other way to be that can bring true peace. We walk it because Jesus, Love embodied, did so himself, straight into Jerusalem – the beating heart of our world. And in so doing, he showed us that while our journey on this path will not keep us from heartbreak, its ultimate end is always, always joy – the impossibly beautiful joy that comes from seeing Love triumph over everything. Have faith, follow Jesus, and keep walking, my beloved. You do not do so alone. 

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Prayers4Peace: Holy Saturday of Lent 2024

A Lesson on Perseverance, Holy Saturday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. David Hindman

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

In 2009, I took a group of college students to Israel-Palestine for an experience of pilgrimage, education, and mission. For two days we planted olive trees at the Tent of Nations, a farm outside of Bethlehem which is owned by the Nassar family. This Palestinian Christian family lives by the motto, “We Refuse to Be Enemies,” even as they are surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements and are frequently harassed by their neighbors. On the farm, the students also learned about the decades-long struggle of the family’s continued perseverance in its efforts to register their land and garner legal recognition of their family’s ownership.

One day, as they struggled to move rocks and find a space to plant one particular olive tree, I heard a student confess, “These stones are beasting me!” – by which they meant the stones were getting the best of them and wearing them down. And yet the student kept digging, and struggling, and trying, because they were determined to do everything they could to ensure at least that one small piece of land would be productive and life-giving. They also realized, compared to the daily struggles and hassles the Nassar family faced with the Israeli military or settlers, tilling that bit of rocky soil was mere child’s play. 

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Prayers4Peace: Good Friday of Lent 2024

A Cloud of Witnesses, Good Friday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Sari Ateek

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… let us run with perseverance”  
Hebrews 12:1

Witnesses. This word found in our devotional text from Hebrews is a translation from the Greek “martyrion”– from which we get the word “martyr.” Rarely do we consider the connection between bearing witness and this level of sacrifice, and yet hidden behind the veil of translation is a most profound concept in our Holy Scriptures.  

Seeking to validate the struggle and cost of faith, the author of Hebrews tells us that we are not alone in this struggle but that we are, in fact, surrounded by what she calls a “great cloud of witnesses” – referring to our spiritual ancestors who responded – each in their own unique way – to the courageous call of faith in their own time and context. The point of her message is that we are not alone because others (past, present, and future) are standing alongside us, bearing witness to the genuineness of the human struggle of faith and life.

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Prayers4Peace: Maundy Thursday of Lent 2024

How do children look to a better future when it seems there is no future?
Maundy Thursday of Lent 2024
Written by Sir Jeffrey Abood, KGCHS (Knight Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre)

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

Hebrews 12:2 – “…looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

8-Children-receive-1st-Communion-in-Gaza
Photo – Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

How do children look to a better future when it seems there is no future?

Palestinians have a word, “sumud,” meaning steadfast perseverance. It is a word rooted in both the Muslim and Christian faith traditions. This steadfastness unveils an ability for those caught in war to look beyond the here and now and not give up; in looking toward a better future, it provides hope during dark times. As the Scripture says: they persevere for the sake of the joy set before them. 

It may seem odd that in the middle of trying to survive a genocide, the children at Holy Family Parish in Gaza City have used their precious time to go through a lengthy confirmation process, complete their classes, and receive their First Communion. 

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Prayers4Peace: Palm Sunday of Lent 2024

Our Balcony People, Palm Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Ronald Shive

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

In 2008, I was elected to be a commissioner to the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in San Jose, California. I was assigned to the International Relations Committee, where one of our major tasks was to deal with several overtures concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. There were some on the committee who felt that it was too controversial and that the issues were too complex for us to approve any positions calling for justice and peace. There were others who were convinced we needed to pass some much-needed statements. I returned to my hotel room very late one night after a full day of committee discussions, and as I processed the events of the day, I heard someone from my “great cloud of witnesses” whispering in my ear.

Carlyle Marney was a Baptist minister who has been described as “a preacher that shook the foundation of the powers that be… an intellect, author, and country boy from East Tennessee.” He was the Pastor of the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte from 1958 -1967. He referred to the people in his own great cloud of witnesses “the balcony people.” Our balcony people are those who have left us to find a new home in the presence of God, but who lean over Heaven’s balcony to cheer us on as we continue to run the race of life.

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Prayers4Peace: Fifth Sunday of Lent 2024

The Heroes of Faith, Fifth Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Kent D. Johnson

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

“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,  looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

This passage in Hebrews comes after a chapter devoted to the heroes of faith– from Abel to Abraham and Moses down through the prophets. These people of faith are part of the great cloud of witness that the writer of Hebrews mentions; they serve as sources of encouragement for the followers of Jesus who grow weary from the trials, challenges, and hostility to their ministry.  

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Prayers4Peace: Fourth Sunday of Lent 2024

The Path of the Cross, Fourth Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Mark Davis

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

“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, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right.”

Whenever a member of our congregation dies, I imagine them suddenly joining the “great cloud of witnesses” that crowds the room when we gather. Most recently, a friend named Larry died suddenly after a long life of service and peacemaking. I will miss his face-to-face fellowship terribly, but I am confident that he is now part of the cloud that surrounds God’s people, side-by-side with Jeremiah, Sojourner Truth, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and other lesser-known saints who saw the path of Jesus’ cross as the only alternative to a world devoted to resentment, retaliation, and cycles of escalatory violence. 

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Prayers4Peace: Third Sunday of Lent 2024

“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, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2 (ESV)

Costly Love and Hard Places, Third Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Rich Leatherberry

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

“Let us run with perseverance the race set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

We live in a culture of quick fixes, instant rewards, and short-term commitments. The temptation is to avoid the hard things, quit, move on, or find something different or someone new. Oliver Wendel Holmes, one of the most influential judges in American history, once wrote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” More than building a resume of all the great things we have done or will do, it’s our character that matters most.  

Perseverance is the character quality that never gives up. Perseverance doesn’t take the easy way out. It stays the course and does the right thing, even when the right thing is the hard thing. Obstacles will not stop it. Discouragement will not derail it. Setbacks will not deter it. Perseverance is the unrelenting commitment to keep going. The author of the Hebrews calls it “hupomone”– Hoop-a-monae. Say that a couple of times. It’s a fun word. Hoop-a-monae!

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Prayers4Peace: Second Sunday of Lent 2024

“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, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2 (ESV)

Following Jesus, Together, Second Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Marian Boyle Rohloff

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

I remember reading history books about the arms races of the World Wars and Cold War era. No doubt, such races are still on the agendas of nations across the globe. A great investment of time, money, and other resources goes into such material races. Unfortunately, these races make for an anxious and tenuous peace at best and encourage the use of terrible violence at worst. What if instead, our time, resources, and energy could be directed toward a life-giving peace? 

The text from Hebrews 12:1-2 invites us to consider a different race and make a different investment. In faith, we are asked to run a race with perseverance, looking to Jesus. We look to one who refused to act in violence and, in doing so, showed us the type of race we are to run. By abiding by this, we are to run for the sake of the common good, considering the human cost that any war inflicts. We are to run away from an “us against them” mentality, instead turning our hearts to the needs of all people impacted by violence. We are to run towards justice and work to undo oppressions that break down our communities.    

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Prayers4Peace: First Sunday of Lent 2024

“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, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2 (ESV)

A Lenten Invitation, First Sunday of Lent 2024
Written by Rev. Amy Winkle

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

The season of Lent conjures up many emotions in us. In Lent, we are called to name and acknowledge our sin, our pain, and the brokenness of our world. In so doing, we also acknowledge our need for a Savior. Recent years brought on a pandemic and social unrest, difficult personal moments for many, and wars playing out across the world; in all of this, our need for a Savior is all the more evident. However, the coming of Lent can feel like a piling on in a time that already feels heavy. It is easy to groan a bit on the inside and think unenthusiastically, “Oh good, Lent is here again.”

Yet, here it is again. The gift of Lent comes to us once more. Not as a burden, but as a gift. Still, how can we accept this gift when we feel like we are surrounded by pain – both inside of us and in our world – and when we witness the unimaginable pain and brokenness that reveals itself in war in the Middle East and around the world? How do we choose to participate, rather than saying, “it’s too much to engage”?

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