Lenten Devotional Cover 2022

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LIBERATION AND UNITY

A LENTEN BOOKLET FOR 2022

A GUIDE FOR MEDITATION AND ACTION

SPONSORED BY THE DEPARTMENTS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION OF THE

AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Rev. Garland F. Pierce, Executive Director

AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

Rev. Patrick Barrett II, General Secretary-Treasurer

CHRISTIAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Dr. Carmichael D. Crutchfield, General Secretary

The cover art is based on the stained glass window of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Ironton, Ohio, USA, pastor, Rev. Margaret V.L. Tyson. The cover art is based on Rev. Tyson’s photo. This cover art is not to be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission of the publisher and Quinn Chapel AME Church.

GRAPHIC ARTIST

Micheal Russell, AME Church Publishing House

Scripture quotations not otherwise identified are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

INTRODUCTION

The Lenten season, from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday, is a time for reflection on God’s great love for us and God’s great call on us to faithful and liberating discipleship. For years, the Historic Black Methodist Churches have used this time to share a daily devotional to serve as a resource for spiritual practice during the season, first under the auspices of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) and then continuing to organize as a joint labor of love of the Christian Education Departments of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

This year’s theme is God Frees and Redeems particularly as demonstrated through the Passover ritual and the Exodus which it commemorates and ultimately the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scripture passages were selected from the Home Daily Bible Readings published by the Committee on Uniform Series (CUS) of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. CUS has promoted an ecumenical approach to the study and teaching of God’s word since 1872.

It has been an honor to serve as this year’s editor. Special thanks to all the meditation contributors and to my colleagues, Rev. Patrick Barrett II, General Secretary-Treasurer for the AMEZ Church Christian Education Department, Dr. Carmichael D. Crutchfield, General Secretary for the CME Church Christian Education Department, and Dr. Willa Ross, meditation coordinator for the CME contributions.

An urgency remains in this present moment politically, culturally, and even spiritually. Xenophobia, the fear of the “other,” seems to rule the day. Yet God calls us to a justice-seeking faith that shows compassion for the other and bears witness to the saving, liberating, and reconciling power of Jesus for the lost. This will be our third Lenten season in the midst of the prolonged season of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our prayer is that these 2022 daily meditations may strengthen us all as we seek and work to follow daily our Crucified and Risen Savior, partnering in the crucial work of liberation, unity, and reconciliation as he so calls and leads. May these meditations sustain us as we soon welcome the end to this pandemic by God’s grace.

Rev. Garland F. Pierce is Executive Director of the Department of Christian Education of the AME Church and serves as Chair of the Committee on the Uniform Series of the National Council of Churches, USA.

The Kindle version of the devotional is available at amazon.com. 

FREE EXCERPTS

March 2, 2022

Ash Wednesday

The Secret

Philippians 4:10-19

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:12-13

Beloved, too many folks are living lives of discontent. We are discontent with what we have because we feel we don’t have enough. We are discontent with what we look like because we feel we could look better. We are discontent with our relationships with family, friends, and significant others, because we could be closer, we could be happier, we could be more satisfied. We live in a world that is basically discontent with the circumstances and the difficulties that come our way. We are discontent because of unrealistic expectations, unfair comparisons, and unnoticed blessings. Yet Paul says in the midst of his trials and circumstances that he has learned the secret to overcoming discontent. Paul proclaimed, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Beloved, contentment comes when we realize that it is not based on what we have but who we know!

PRAYER: Lord, help us not to allow the frustrating distractions of this world to cause us to lose sight of the secret Paul has revealed. No matter in what season of life we find ourselves, because of your steadfast love for us, we have the blessed assurance that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! AMEN

Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount is Vice Chair of the AME Church Commission on Christian Education and pastor of Arnett Chapel AME Church in Chicago, IL. He also serves as the Murray H. Leiffer Associate Professor of Formation, Leadership, and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; Evanston, IL.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

GOD is…

Isaiah 40:12-15, 21-31

…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…
Isaiah 40:31a

Exercising great strength is rewarded in American culture, both physically – through athletics from neighborhood football and dance, all the way up to the Olympics – and mentally – through exceptional memory and intelligence. In everyday life, we applaud others for their strength through difficult situations and how well they are able to handle the obstacles of life. At times, even when we do not personally have the strength to give to others, we muster it up at all costs in order to remain in control and be seen as able to handle whatever life throws in our direction.

We are reminded in the 40th chapter of Isaiah, verse 8, that although we as humans have a limited capacity for strength and endurance, God is omnipotent both in what we think of as physical attributes (“He does not grow faint or weary…”) and in mental, social, and emotional acuity (“…his understanding is unsearchable”). Isaiah 40 is a reminder to the Judahites then, and to us present day that God’s power through creation and ability to imbue strength in our weakness is sufficient.

God’s power is sure and his strength is certain. As we are going through life and especially this Lenten season, let us be reminded to draw on God’s strength in our times of need, weakness, and uncertainty. Isaiah’s mention that, “…those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…” reminds us that we are both able to draw strength from God in the time of our weakness, and totally depend and trust on God at our lowest points.

God is able. During this Lenten season, let us choose to put our patience and trust in the all-powerful Creator in an unusual way.

PRAYER: Most wise and powerful Creator, we are grateful for your ability to do all things well. Thank you for coming alongside of us and activating your strength within us when we are weak. Help us to wait on and put our trust in you. AMEN

Dr. Allison Lee serves on the ministerial staff at the Trinity AME Zion Church in Greensboro, NC, and as the advisor to the Varick International Christian Youth Council of the AME Zion Church.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Reading Between the Lines

1 Peter 2:13-17

For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.
1 Peter 2:15

At first glance, 1 Peter 2:13-17 can be challenging to digest, particularly when we consider recent political events that perpetuate discriminatory practices against various populations. When children are starving across the world, violence continues to ravage our most vulnerable communities, and political decisions continue to benefit primarily the most powerful in our nation, how can we genuinely “accept” the authority of “every human institution” when many of these institutions are drastically unjust?

I believe the key is found in verse 15, “For it is God’s will that by doing right, you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.” What happens when the foolish are the ones who hold positions of power and authority? Perhaps, Peter is writing in concealed messages here and challenging us to read between the lines. He is very aware of the way in which the Roman Empire abused their power, often subjecting new believers to unfair treatment. However, in the midst of writing a letter that was most likely read aloud for hundreds to hear (including Roman officials), he essentially says, “Do the right thing so that even the work of those who operate in injustice can ultimately be silenced.”

You may be surrounded by those in positions of authority who do not recognize your own worth and potential. But your authority, Child of God, lies in you doing what is right and kindling God’s divine power that lies within you.

PRAYER: Heavenly God, during this Lenten journey, help us to hold onto what is right even when you are calling us to read between the lines and engage with society deeply by enacting justice the way you do. AMEN

Rev. Rose Archer, MDiv., is an Ordained Elder in C.M.E. Church and a Board-Certified Chaplain. She’s a doctoral student in Sociology at Florida State University.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Remember Your Are His Glory

Psalm 97

This month marks the two year anniversary of COVID-19; and, much has changed in the life of the church. These times have made many of us question what is God‘s purpose and plan concerning our lives. It seems as if being a certain type of Christian/ person is no longer acceptable to those in power. Some are on a concerted effort to get back to the “normal” way of life where countless persons were disenfranchised, marginalized, and left out; but, there is hope. Psalms 97 reminds us that God dwells in both the light and the darkness. We are reminded that even in times when it feels like doing the right thing or being a good person causes us to be overlooked, God still remembers us. God has not forgotten you! The text talks about God’s coming back but in actuality it reminds us that every day we are to be walking as ambassadors of the love of God.

The second part of the text it reminds us of God‘s willingness to seek justice for God’s people. We again must be willing to serve those around us, who feel like their voice has become silenced. This Lenten season, we as Christians should take time to focus on our relationship with Christ. We must also use this time to remember that even now, we do not have to wait for the return of Christ or the end of COVID for Us to be a light in dark times— to stand for justice even when we feel too persecuted to do so. Believe in something greater than ourselves as individuals while being grateful for the small and simple moments in life. Remember why we were created in the first place— to give God glory and to love one another. On this day in your journey, even if the sun light will not hit your face, remember you are all of God‘s glory wrapped up in God’s hope and dreams.

PRAYER: God of justice, help me remember who I am because of you. Then, empower me to act so. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ms. Martinique Mix is Connectional President of the Richard Allen Young Adult Council and the Director of Lay Activities for the Sixth Episcopal District of the AME Church. She works as a graphic designer and teacher of the arts.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

First Sunday in Lent

Blessings From Unexpected Places

Ezra 1:1-8, 11; 2:64-70

A story is told of a mother who had run short on groceries and supplies for her family. One weekend, she called into a radio station asking for help from God. Her neighbor, an unbeliever, happened to be listening and decided to play a little joke on his neighbor. He ordered his secretary to run to the grocery store, purchase a large quantity of food, and have it delivered to the woman’s home. When she opened the door, the mother began praising God for answering her prayers. The man jumped out from the bushes and shouted “Aha! God didn’t send those groceries. I did!”. To the man’s dismay, the woman began praising God with greater fervor. She yelled out, “I knew God would bless me. I just didn’t know he’d use the devil to do it!”

When God is ready to make a move, he is not limited to human sensibilities and expectations. When God is ready to move, he may even draw your blessing from the most unexpected people and the most unexpected places. In today’s text, Persia has risen as the new world power. Persia’s King, Cyrus, would not have initially been seen as a friend to the vassal nations of the empire, including Israel. Yet Cyrus, an outsider, a foe, and perhaps “the devil” to some, is the man that God uses to usher in Israel’s liberation.

Don’t limit God. Don’t miss your blessing because it doesn’t “fit the description” you envisioned. God can and will use anybody and anything to accomplish his will for your life.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we thank you for your movement in our lives. Keep us open to how you are sending blessings, partners, and new opportunities our way even if they come from unexpected places. AMEN

Rev. Patrick Barrett, II is the General Secretary of Christian Education for the AME Zion Church.

Monday, March 7, 2022

A Firm Foundation

Ezra 3:8-13

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel.
And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people responded with great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. –
Ezra 3: 10-11

The altar and temple of the Lord had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon after he captured Jerusalem. The people had mixed feelings surrounding the rebuilding; some gave shouts of joy while others expressed agony. Others felt that there would never be another altar or temple fashioned as great as the original one.

Can we relate to the scripture given how worship has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Church doors have been closed to in-person worship because of this virus. As we resorted to Facebook, parking lots, YouTube, and Zoom for worship services, some congregants shouted with a joyful noise that services could continue while many grieved the loss of the familiarity of in building worship. Some declared, “It will not be the same.”

COVID-19 and its successive variants may have taken away our ability to assemble face-to-face in our religious institutions; but, it has not taken away our foundation of faith to continue to worship God. For we worshippers are the church. Although we are operating differently, our hope and trust in the Lord rest on a firm foundation of belief in Christ Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord God, free our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we might worship thee. AMEN

Ms. Bernice King-Strong is a retired educator, certified counselor, and a daughter of the parsonage, presently serving as a church missionary and trustee in her local congregation. She loves music, quilting, reading, and singing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Overcoming Opposition

Ezra 4:1-5

Two of the worst feelings that one can ever experience is rejection and that emotion which comes from opposition. When we have intentionally dedicated our time and energy toward a project, we not only want to see it come to fruition, but we want others to appreciate our tenacity and support our endeavors. The biggest disappointment comes when we are engaged in kingdom work, knowing the possible influence it will have on others, and it is rejected. In spite of how rejection comes, it can be devastating. In this portion of scripture, we see the building of the temple come to a stop as a result of the adversaries’ opposition. Even though this opposition was initially disguised, the true intentions of disruption became apparent as the adversaries used fear and discouragement toward the people of Judah. On our journeys, we too must be mindful of wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing who would like all progress to ease. However, through prayer, faith, and diligence, we trust that God will favor us with discernment as we are on our kingdom assignment.

PRAYER: Creator God, we pray for your continued guidance as we work to share the good news of the gospel. In moments of discouragement and opposition, we pray that you will give us the strength to overcome, knowing that the work is all divine. AMEN

Rev. Maurice Wright II, pastor of St. John AME Church in Huntsville, Alabama, serves as the Connectional Director of the Music and Christian Arts Ministry for the AME Church.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Revolutionary Worship

Revelation 5

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!” 

Revelation 5:13

During the 2008 US Presidential election, there was quite a controversy surrounding the radical preaching of Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., then pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and former pastor of the Obama Family. The press had gotten a hold of a “snippet” of a sermon preached by Dr. Wright in 2001 and weaponized it to smear the Obama campaign.

When members of the Trinity Church would attend worship on Sunday morning, they were interrogated by reporters regarding their presence at Trinity. Dr. Wright tutored each member to respond in this fashion, “We’re not here for Jeremiah, we’re here because of Jesus.”

Revelation 5 reminds us that the core of our collective testimony is that we have a Savior that stands in solidarity with those (to use the language of Howard Thurman) “whose backs are against the wall”. Our song is not the plaintive cry of a victim, but an anthem offered to One who is worthy of worship and adoration. Worthy is the lamb!

Beloved, during this Lenten journey, may we be reminded that our worship transcends place and time; our worship is hinged and held by a person. We worship because of Jesus, and that indeed is revolutionary!

PRAYER: Oh Christ, may our worship keep you ever in our view so that we are not lured into flights of self-pity but lifted to new heights of joy as we worship before the audience of One. AMEN

Dr. Daran H. Mitchell is the pastor of Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, Greensboro, North Carolina, and Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology (Preaching) at Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, North Carolina.