For our Lenten study at St Michael’s we’ve been exploring the upcoming Sunday’s lessons each week. One theme that has come through loud and clear has been God’s desire to establish a covenant with us, God’s people. The readings on March 18th, the 5th Sunday in Lent, made this especially clear both in Jeremiah and in John’s gospel: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31: “33, 34) and “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
Our study guide pointed out that a covenant is a basis for relationship. It’s not just about keeping laws and following rules; it’s about building a relationship with our loving God who longs for a relationship with us! Personally, I am still blown away knowing that God desires this relationship with me! If our understanding of the covenant was merely a sort of “tit for tat” situation – you do this, then I will do that – we end up with a system built on “shoulds” and laws but, since our covenant is grounded in love, we have the basis for a deep, abiding relationship. It’s all about relationship.
By now you are likely wondering why I brought this up. Well, one thing I have learned about myself is that when I consider “issues,” it may take me a while to understand the importance and get involved; whereas, if a cause is presented and I personally know the people involved, if I have some kind of a relationship with them, I am much quicker to respond to the needs. It took me time to see the importance of many of our resolutions until I had witnessed, first-hand, the effort put out by the originators of the resolutions and the consequences for the people whose lives the resolutions are meant to transform.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Allison Duvall at Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) asking that I might share information about “Hometown,” the series of podcasts that EMM has created to coincide with the Good Book Club initiative. As Allison describes: “Our podcast episodes feature scripture reflections on Good Book Club readings, interviews with New Americans, and information on refugee resettlement and EMM’s ministry.” I had seen that these were available a few weeks ago but was already settled into my own Lenten disciplines and missed the opportunity to share this information with you then. The good news is that they are still available – you can find both the podcasts and some beautiful reflections on the EMM blog page. You can also subscribe to the podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. The Hometown podcasts and the efforts of EMM fit so well with the work we have begun sharing our stories in our Household. Listening to the stories of these “new Americans” will put names and faces to the refugee crisis. We might find we feel a connection, the beginning of a relationship, which can motivate us to continue the important work of supporting refugee resettlement.
While I’m at it, let me put in a plug for the Good Book Club. In case you missed the announcements, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invited all of us to join with friends throughout the church in reading the Gospel of Luke during Lent and the Acts of the Apostles during the fifty days of Easter. You can watch a brief video of this invitation by Bishop Curry on the Good Book Club homepage. There you will also find links to the reading schedule and many resources offered by Forward Movement.
I can hear you asking: “Isn’t Lent almost over? Why would I start now?” ’m a firm believer in “it’s never too late to do the right thing!” Even if you’ve missed most of Luke’s reading, you can still choose either to take some time to catch up or join the Club for the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with new insight and understanding!
One final note before I close for this week. The 21st of March is just a couple of days away. This month, “For Such a Time as This” asks that we #PrayFastAct for women and girls. The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) writes:
This month, our focus is on international programs that support women and girls across the world. Although the U.S. government has historically been a leader in funding programs that address the needs of women and girls globally, there are indications that such initiatives are in danger of being significantly reduced or eliminated. Cutting essential funds and eliminating programs would hurt communities that depend on the support of our government to improve the lives of women and girls.
Pray for our nation’s elected leaders to courageously invest in programs that address the needs and basic human rights of women and girls, as well as provide opportunities for them to thrive. We also pray for the ordinary men and women who continue to work tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
Grant, O God, that all may recognize women as equal partners in creation and prophesy. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, empower women at home, at work, in government, and in the hierarchies of churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and all other places of worship. Provide safety and protection, O Gracious Divinity, and inspire just laws against all forms of violence against women. We ask this through Christ our Savior, Amen. — Lifting Women’s Voices–Prayers to Change The World
Fast in solidarity with women and girls across the globe, who continue to face gender inequality and other challenges in many aspects of their lives.
Act Prepare for action by reading our one-pager on programs that help prevent gender-based violence, educate and empower adolescent girls, discourage child marriages, increase leadership opportunities for women, and foster women’s inclusion and economic empowerment.
For more information about this movement, go to the EPPN webpage.
As we move to the end of our holy Lent, let us continue to draw near to our God that we might be transformed to the people God desires strengthened by our deep and abiding relationship with God.
Let us pray –
For those deprived of their human needs
and their human rights,
that they may be given the dignity
which God confers on all his people;
We pray to the Lord.
For all who are forgotten or thrown away,
and especially for the poor, the sick and the aged,
that God might change our hearts
and move us to love them as the image of Christ
We pray to the Lord.
For all who are lonely or afraid,
for teenagers on the street,
old people in nursing homes,
prisoners with no one to visit them,
refugees without a homeland,
and all whom the world has forgotten:
that Christ might lead us to them;
We pray to the Lord.
For all who are forgotten or cast off,
that we might value each human life,
as a priceless gift from God;
We pray to the Lord.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council