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”?

Hebrews 12: 1-2 gives us a Lenten invitation. In this text, we see two imperatives – first, “let us lay aside every weight and sin,” and second, “let us run with perseverance.” The Lenten invitation acknowledging our sin, pain, and the brokenness of our world is not meant to immobilize us. Indeed, the writer of Hebrews says we are not meant to let the weight and sin of this world hold us down. Instead, we acknowledge this weight and sin, and then we lay it aside so that we can continue to run the race. Lent is not an invitation to sit in our brokenness without hope; it is the invitation to bring our brokenness to Jesus, so that we might be free from its weight and continue to run the race set before us. 

Most importantly, Lent points us to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus does not stand outside of our pain and weariness, but is the one who willingly enters into it. Jesus who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross

So how do we continue to attend to and engage in our pain and the pain of others during Lent? By looking to Jesus and running after him. If Jesus is running toward the pain of this world, if he is present to the pain of our brothers and sisters in Gaza and Israel, we can run after him with perseverance, knowing that he is already present and active in saving the world. Our job is to follow him.

What are tangible ways you can engage and challenge feelings of despair: 

  • Sit in silent prayer. 
  • As you read the newspaper articles on your computer, stop and pray for those who are named
  • Allow yourself to cry and lament the sufferings of others.
  • Engage those of multiple generations in the questions that can feel too heavy. 
  • Give your time, resources, or energy to organizations that are able to be the hands and feet. 
  • Participate in a Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage walk. 
  • Call your representatives to ask for a ceasefire on a daily basis, as an act of prayer for mercy. 
  • Meet with your pastor or church leaders to share your concerns about the wider Christian body, and human rights issues more generally. 
  • Challenge yourself not to look away, even if it feels like “too much”; challenge yourself also to pray when you feel numb to the overwhelm of information. 

About the author: Rev. Amy Winkle is the Rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Decatur, Georgia. Amy has a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary, a Master of Theology degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, and a Master of Studies in Hebrew & Jewish Studies from the University of Oxford. Rev. Winkle is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Asbury Theological Seminary.

Please note any views or opinions contained in this devotional series are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

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