Lenten Devotional
By Deaconness Anne Hillman

We are in the midst of a Lent we will never forget.

I don’t remember many of the Lenten seasons I’ve lived through.  Obviously, there have been as many Lents as Easters I’ve experienced, but while I can recall many Easter Sundays, there are few Lents that stick out in my mind.  In fact, there’s only the one where I was taking my qualifying exams that truly is memorable. That Lent culminated in a 72-hour essay writing marathon that lasted from the morning of Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ended Easter morning an hour before I got to church.  I celebrated the resurrection that Easter with more understanding than ever before.

But I know this Lent is going to be even more memorable.

Across the United States, and in much of the world, we have been thrown into a wilderness of isolation, uncertainty, economic insecurity, illness, fear, and grief.  The global COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of our lives, including how we express our faith. We are traveling through Lent without the comfort of regular gatherings for worship and study.  Our patterns for connecting with God have been disrupted, and we are forced to find new ways of hearing God’s small still voice.

Even our work for justice has transformed in the face of governmental restrictions and concerns surrounding community spread.  Service organizations run on minimal staff and provide only the most basic assistance with food and shelter. Those in the most need, the marginalized in our society, are bearing the greatest brunt as the services they rely on are suspended or severely limited, and every day more people find themselves on the precipice of economic devastation.

This Lent is likely to continue past the traditional 40 days as April 12th will fall within the majority of state shelter-in-place mandates.  As hard as it will be to delay the joy we so desperately want to experience at Easter, rescheduling our celebrations of the resurrection is the right thing to do.  The message and meaning of Easter are much more important than the date we celebrate.

I intend to celebrate with my entire being when we finally gather physically as a worshipping community.  This Easter will mark renewed life in all its forms – spiritually, physically, emotionally, economically, and socially.  Let’s make sure we use Easter to reaffirm our commitment to a God of abundant life and take actions to ensure all are able to participate in that abundant life.

There is a danger some of the attitudes people have adopted this Lent could continue into our Easter season and hinder the work of justice we undertake.  The wariness of strangers (caused by not knowing their efforts to halt the spread of illness), the temptation to hoard (caused by the uncertainty of obtaining necessities), and the fear of economic hardship (caused by unprecedented job loss and business closure) can hinder our attempts to be generous of our time, talents, and resources.  Hopefully, we are reminding ourselves throughout this Lent that God is always with us, but we must use this Easter to cast out as much fear as possible so we can experience and share the abundant love and grace of God in our lives. This Easter must be a time to renew our generous spirits and reclaim our ability to care for all God’s children.

Dear God, remind us of your never-failing love as we live through this intense and extended Lenten season.  Help us to anticipate the joy of resurrection and prepare ourselves for renewed life when Easter finally comes.  Amen.

Deaconess Anne Hillman, Ph.D., is the Director of Children, Youth, & Family Ministries at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, MI. Central United Methodist Church is the newest congregation to become a Justice Seeking Community.