With our observance of Ash Wednesday we now enter the season of Lent. Since the earliest centuries, Lent has been a season of preparation for the baptisms that took place at Easter, a time for training bodies and teaching minds what it means to walk in the way of the cross. Later it became a time for those who had renounced their faith to return to the church. In every age, Christians are called to reflect on the meaning of their baptism, to repent of the habits and practices that draw us away from God’s vision for a world healed and transformed.
Throughout these forty days we are invited to take up the ancient disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (another word for acts of benevolence and charity). As we fast, we grow in our awareness of and solidarity with those who do not have the luxury of fasting. Our heightened awareness naturally leads us to pray — for those who suffer, and for those whose lives must be amended if the suffering is to end. Our prayers begin to shape reality as we offer back what God has first given us; our time, our money, and our selves.
This year St. Luke’s, along with the member congregations of the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, is inviting people to consider activities that deepen our awareness of the accelerating housing crisis in our neighborhood and across the city with communal practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving that reflect our shared commitment to reflecting God’s justice, mercy, and love with our whole lives in ways that serve our neighbors’ needs.
Whether you choose to participate in these events, or to observe Lent in other ways, I pray that you will make space in your life for this season to offer its gifts to you. Lent is not a punishment for sin, but a call to return to the abundant life God desires for you and for the whole creation.
Trusting in God’s grace and mercy,
Fasting: As they have for many years, Kimball Avenue Church has released a public statement of invitation and explanation about the collective fast which they call the “Lenten Compact.” This year’s compact relates directly to the issue of housing in our community. To learn more, see https://lentencompact.wordpress.com/2016-compact-for-housing-justice/ and consider which elements of the compact you might wish to add to your Lenten discipline.
Daily Prayer and Devotions: Pastor Bruce Ray of Kimball Avenue Church has compiled a Lenten devotional featuring reflections by the clergy from the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA). To read today’s devotion, go to https://lentencompact.wordpress.com/2016-compact-for-housing-justice/day-1/, then return each day as new reflections are added.
Morning Prayer and Protest: During the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s Rabbi Abraham Heschel used to say that when he was marching he was “praying with his feet.” Throughout these forty days of Lent, you are invited to join Pastor Drew Rindfleisch (San Lucas UCC) and Andy Willis (Kimball Ave Church) as they lead morning prayer and public witness at sites throughout the neighborhood connected to the ongoing housing crisis. For more information see https://www.facebook.com/prayprotest/
Midweek Meal with Book Study and Contemplative Prayer: Each Wednesday night from 6:30pm – 8pm St. Luke’s will host a simple supper of soup and bread along with a study of Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s book, “#Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) about Money and Power.” This book provides a clear, biblical rationale for how and why the church is called to confront the rising tide of poverty and economic inequality in the United States and around the world. Each evening will close with a brief time of prayer and simple song from the Taizé community.
Almsgiving: Individually, and as member congregations of the LSEA, we are encouraged to make additional offerings to organizations working to welcome those immigrants and refugees arriving in Chicago seeking a new home and a new life. Having already taken up an offering for the work of RefugeeOne, St. Luke’s will be offering new opportunities to support the work of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) the immigration clinic at Humboldt Park UMC at which members of St. Luke’s already volunteer.
5th Annual #Occupy Palm Sunday: This year St. Luke’s will join with other LSEA congregations for a joint worship service which will culminate in a procession with palms to Lathrop Homes for a demonstration and action in response to the city’s failure to keep its promise to restore lost units of public housing at that sight and across the city.