LENTEN Devotional Cover 2023

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A LENTEN BOOKLET FOR 2023

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

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 Jesus Calls Us which focuses our attention, prayer, and action on the reality that ALL of us continually are called by the Risen Christ to bear witness through word and service to this 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, Rev. Gwendolyn Peters and Dr. Willa Ross, meditation coordinators for the AMEZ and CME contributions respectively.

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 fourth Lenten season in the midst of this prolonged season of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our prayer is that these 2023 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.

Garland F. Pierce

FREE EXCERPTS

February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday

NEW PRAISE ON THE ANCIENT PATH

Isaiah 42:8-17

Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth!
Isaiah 42:10a

The prophet Isaiah, God’s mouthpiece, declares that a new day belongs to the nation and the response that must follow is praise. God promises to do something new and marvelous. All creation is invited, even commanded, to offer the Creator and Liberator praise—full-throated, exuberant, and heart-felt.

Today, we embark on a spiritual journey for 40+ days. It is an ancient path traveled by many other believers who came before us. They too were called to reflect on their mortality, flaws, failures, and finiteness in light of a good and gracious God in whom there is no failure, only infinite love, so much so until this God gave the beloved and only Son.

Even while we go forward on this ancient Lenten path, a new praise is in order and encouraged—a new praise for the new revelations for which we need and hope, a new praise for the new mercies we encounter each day of this holy season and beyond, a new praise for the new life which has been bought for us.

How different will this season and our spiritual life be if we were to offer a new praise each day of this Lenten season—sung, spoken, motioned, or demonstrated through simple acts of kindness, service, and advocacy? How much stronger, louder, and joyful will our Hallelujahs be on Resurrection Sunday if we practice the discipline of offering praise in all its forms every day on this season’s path. Practiced praise can ultimately lead to more perfect praise.

PRAYER: God, the Ancient of Days and Creator of the Old and the New, I see the new things you are bringing forth. Even when I do not always understand them, I will still trust you and give you praise for them. From dust until I shall return, with this loaned breath of life, I shall praise you. In the name of your perfect example of love, I pray and promise, AMEN

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

JESUS CALLS US: TO TRUST

Psalm 119:121-136

Guarantee your servant’s well-being; do not let the godless oppress me. Psalm 119:122

Psalm 119 is strangely wonderful and mysteriously complex. Its structure is unique amongst both the Psalms and the rest of the scriptures. It was specially crafted; perhaps the elusive epiphanies of a lifetime of wisdom compiled and treasured by one, or ones, called by God to trust. And though by its nature the Psalm seems varied and winding; it is connected by one theme that pulses through its veins and infuses life into nearly every verse: God’s Word. Some facet of God and God’s Word shows up in at least 171 of the 176 verses. Appearing not merely for the sake of mention or presence, but for something deeper: an invitation, a call to trust.

However, verse 122 stands out as one verse that does not mention God. It reflects not on the person of God but rather on the reality of the psalmist’s need. The spotlight illuminates the brokenness, trouble, and afflictions of the righteous; things we, God’s children, experience daily. Momentarily, we’re painfully aware of everything we need God to do in and through us in this season of fasting. But even as the psalmist sits with his troubles, he’s invited to trust. And as he responds to God’s invitation, his focus shifts from worry to the Word, from problem to God’s Promise. He responds to God’s invitation to fall in love with Love and to trust Yahweh to light and direct his path. This Lenten season, sit for a moment – and only a moment – with what you need. Then go and sit with who you need, and trust.

PRAYER: Lord, help us to trust you to light and direct our paths and hold to your promise of well-being. AMEN

Rev. Rick Lee is the Pastor of Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church, Morrilton, AR, and the newly elected Midwestern Regional Vice Chair of the Young Adults in Christian Ministries Steering Committee.

Friday, February 24, 2023

THE DAY OF THE LORD

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10

“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with Him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Paul begins 1 Thessalonians 5 saying, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” (Verses 1-2) Jesus had already taught that he would be coming again and that no one knows the day or the hour. Paul acknowledges the church does not need a reminder. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and at a time that no one knows but the Father, the Father will say to the Son, “Go get my children!” The Lord’s return will be unexpected and unannounced; but it is sure.

At numerous points throughout 1 Thessalonians, Paul returns to the theme of the second coming of Christ or “the Day of the Lord,” the day when God will punish his enemies and vindicate his people.

Hope in this coming day is a source of encouragement to Christians around the world facing various forms of adversity and opposition. Hope gives us the assurance that those who oppress us will one day receive their punishment. Justice will prevail. Paul instructed the Thessalonians to conduct themselves in godly ways in light of this hope. Their lives should exhibit the faith, love, and hope they have because of Christ. Our beliefs must translate into a changed way of life. By living holy lives in faithfulness to Christ and his word, we remain ready for his return and will never be caught unprepared.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we come before you today asking you to remember us during your second coming to judge the living and the dead. AMEN

Dr. Jacqueline I. Scott is a retired librarian and classroom teacher, who is also serving as the International President of the Women’s Missionary Council, CME Church.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

READY WHEN JESUS CALLS

1 Peter 2:1-12

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2: 9

1 Peter 2:1-12 reminds us that we must strip and cleanse ourselves of all sin to get closer to God and to the true nature of who and whose we are. During the Lenten season, we are striving through prayer, fasting, and bible reading so that we can experience the fullness of Christ.

Purging is one way we will mature as Christians. We have minimized the hard work that Christianity requires. The practice of the spiritual disciplines is to rebuild us in the image of Christ. We are living stones that need to be chiseled, shaped and fashioned by the Holy Spirit. The early Christians took extreme measures to become one with Christ. St. Augustine, the African Church father, spent his life living out his Christianity through poverty, detachment from the world, intense labor, and silence. He realized that he needed time away with God to be re-shaped. During that season of self-reflection, he wrote the “Confessions” and “The City of God.”

The world today is so fast paced and intense, if we don’t take intentional time away from the busyness of life, we will succumb to a life of materialism, greed, and self-destruction. Peter tells us that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people; but, we cannot be unless we are being shaped by the chief cornerstone, the builder, Jesus Christ through the spiritual disciplines for intentional self-consecration. As sojourners, pilgrims, and people of the way, we are to cut ties with anything that wars against our souls so that we can glorify God in our thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. Make the commitment of purging and consecration to hear when Jesus calls.

PRAYER: Dear God, we desire to be used by you. Chisel, shape, and form us in your image and likeness us so that we can be used for your Glory. AMEN

Rev. Carey A. Grady is the Pastor of Reid Chapel AME Church (www.reidchapel.org) in Columbia, S.C. He blogs at www.careygrady.com and writes for several news outlets.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

First Sunday in Lent

I BEND MY WILL TO THE WILL OF CHRIST

1 Peter 2:13-25

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution 1 Peter 2:13a

Our text reminds us as believers we are to submit, not only to the government but also to Christ. The Word of God is replete with references to submitting, obeying, and trusting God; but, 1 Peter reminds us that the freedom we have found in Christ does not mean we are to disrespect, absolve ourselves from the law, or use our freedom in Christ to do what is evil. When we submit, we are declaring to the world that, as believers, we do not live unto ourselves. While writing, I can hear the hymn written by John H. Sammis, which says, “Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

For many, submitting goes against all that we have been taught from adolescence to late young adulthood. We are told that when we reach a certain age it is then that we can do what we desire. And so, subconsciously, we go through life believing that at a certain point on our journeys, we are free to do whatever we choose with our actions and in our lives. This text is a vivid reminder that this is not the life Christ intends for us to live. Rather, we are to live free in Christ, but never as an excuse to operate apart from the sovereign will of God even in the face of adversity. We are called to serve the Master as slaves to Christ.

PRAYER: “Have thine own way, Lord, Have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”1AMEN

Rev. Dr. Evalina Huggins is the Presiding Elder of the Baltimore District in the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District (AME Zion Church) and celebrating 39 years of pastoral experience.

1 Have Thine Own Way, Lord, Adelaide A. Pollard (1906)

Monday, February 27, 2023

A PSALM OF THE HEART

Psalm 28

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
In him my heart trusts
Psalm 28:7a

Psalm 28 shows David the son of Jesse once again crying out to God, and praising God for the hearing and answering of his prayer. In this psalm we see the heart in a few different aspects: the evil heart (Psalm 28:3), the trusting heart (Psalm 28:7), and the rejoicing heart (Psalm 28:7).

When David thought to describe the wicked, he began noting that they were false in their words, hiding the evil in their hearts. Their words did not match the actions because of evil.

In verse 7, the psalmist says, “My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped.” David here adds his voice to the testimony of countless others who have found help as their heart trusted in God. This brought great rejoicing and singing to David.

David knew that God answered his prayer, perhaps even before the answer was in hand.

“The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving refuge of his anointed.” This is the blessing given to the heart that trusts God; God becomes their strength. God does not merely give strength; God is their strength, and the refuge of God’s anointed. The word anointed reminds us of the ultimate Anointed One, Jesus the Messiah. God’s anointed ones are secure in the Messiah, and therefore strong and safe.

The psalm started with a plea for personal help and rescue, but by the end of the psalm, David’s concern is for the LORD’s people as a whole. God’s people need to be rescued; and, they look to God for it. God’s people need God’s blessing and favor; and, they receive it by being God’s inheritance.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for salvation and blessing us. Help us to always put our trust in you. AMEN

Dr. Victor Taylor is the General Secretary of the Department of Finance and Investments for the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

DEMYSTIFICATION

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Matthew 11.25b-26

Jesus’s earthly sojourn was shrouded in mystery – and demystification. Jesus is introduced in the gospel according to John with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1.1). Through Jesus, we encounter embodied Word – manifested as beginning, with G*d, and as G*d. Upon meeting the child Jesus, Simeon told Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2.34b-35). Through Jesus, creation is revealed to itself – and established order is reversed. Jesus conceals or asks others to conceal his own identity at least twenty-three times. Having healed blind men, Jesus warns, “see that no one knows of this” (Matthew 9.30) and in Matthew 12, he ordered those he had cured “not to make him known” (v.16). Through Jesus, we experience G*d revealing, while we are reminded that demystification is a matter of G*d’s timing and G*d’s will. Yet early in the Lenten journey, many lessons are yet unlearned – and Divine treasures remain hidden as we remember how to crawl with humility back towards infancy. As we yield, this sacred gift is given: “we’ll understand it better by and by.”

PRAYER: G*d, when we feel tossed and driven personally and collectively, demystify paths of faithfulness, strengthen us with all we need to travel those paths – honoring who you are, who we are, and Your order. AMEN

Rev. Jennifer S. Leath, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Black Religion at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT

Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat .“ Matthew 14:16

An estimated 800 million people live everyday with hunger or food insecurity. A condition thought by many to only exist in third world countries now impacts people worldwide. Community food banks, food pantries, and government subsidies are provided daily to those in need. Hunger or food insecurity has become a global issue. It has been defined as the condition of not having access to sufficient food or food of an adequate quality to meet one’s basic needs.

We read in this passage of scripture that Jesus felt compassion for the people and performed miracles by curing the sick and feeding 5,000 men (women and children) with two fish and five loaves of bread. The disciples feeling the hour was late and there was no place to buy food advised Jesus to send the crowd on their way home to buy food for themselves. Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat”. The disciples replied, they did not have enough food for the crowd. Jesus blessed the food they had and the disciples fed 5000+ people with leftovers.

Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to feed the 5000, he asked them to give what they had. Food insecurity and hunger is a call to action for Christian disciples. What is Jesus asking us to give so he can feed his hungry people?

PRAYER: Jesus, help me to be selfless and generous to help you help those in need. AMEN

Ms. Margaree Coleman Carter is the Advisor to the Assembly of Christian Educators for the AME Zion Church and Director of the New Jersey Conference CED- North Eastern Episcopal District.

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