Lent from the Margins
Recent events in our country have brought to the fore certain challenge we all face. For one, racism continues to exist, indeed, to thrive. Some of us have always known this; others of us have recently been reminded. We have also been reminded of the growing polarization of our society. As a culture we have not cultivated healthy ways to enter into conversation with those who have experiences or opinions that differ from our own. This inability to enter into safe, truth-telling conversation makes it nearly impossible to cure what ails us.
As people of faith, we know the power words have to bring healing, hope, and life. This Lent we are inviting the faith communities of Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood to be part of a shared conversation and shared action toward building unity and justice. We will be offering a common set of texts for Lenten midweek worship services and Bible studies, as well as opportunities for congregations to come together in service, learning, and action. If your congregation chooses to participate, you are welcome to use the resources in whatever way will work best for your context, while also deciding which of the shared actions is appropriate for your congregation. If Lenten midweek worship is not your custom, you are invited to partner with another local congregation that does have this custom or use the texts in another way. There is a great deal of flexibility in how we can work together.
This shared Lenten series is being offered by the local Ministerial Association, as well as the Community of Churches. We look forward to having people throughout our community share in one story, learn constructive ways to have difficult conversations, learn from the experience of others, and work together to share God’s love with our city and our world. More details will be forthcoming in January.
The shared Lenten texts for both worship and Bible study will come from the Passion story, primarily as told by Luke. The chosen texts will focus on characters who typically are glossed over because they are at the margins of the story. You are encouraged to use these texts as a way to help people practice paying attention to the people in our society who are often kept on the margins. Some of our congregations will be reading these texts through the lens of liberation theology. Liberation theology of various forms sprung out of communities experiencing various forms of oppression. These communities heard the Word of God as a word of liberation. While liberation theology has been applied in a number of different ways, we would invite you and your congregation to consider using the following lenses:
The texts suggested for this shared Lenten series are the following:
Lent 1 (week of February 14): Woman who anoints Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13)
The woman who was forgotten
Lent 2 (week of February 21): The man with a jug of water (Luke 22:10-13)
The man who offered risky hospitality
Lent 3 (week of February 28): The slave of the high priest (Luke 22:50-51)
A victim of violence
Lent 4 (week of March 6): Simon of Cyrene and the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:26-31)
In the wrong place at the wrong time
Lent 5 (week of March 13): The Centurion at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:47)
The full texts will be longer than simply the verses noted above. You will be free to use these texts in whatever way makes the most sense for your worshiping community. For example, my congregation, Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, has a custom of the pastor offering dramatic monologues during Lent; the pastor will plan to enact these characters during the five weeks. Others might offer more traditional homilies on these marginal characters. Or perhaps you will explore using a dialogical sermon with the congregation. Another idea is to interview members of your congregation/parish who have had experiences similar to those of these characters. Or invite parishioners to write a testimony to share in worship. There are endless possibilities.
The Bible study we will be inviting congregations to engage will use the process of mutual invitation (outlined here). Mutual invitation is a process designed to allow all voices around a table to be heard, particularly those voices that are often pushed to the margins. This process is based on biblical study methods found in the Kaleidoscope Bible Study Process.
The process of mutual invitation Bible study does not allow for an “expert” or “teacher.” Instead, a facilitator invites all the participants to answer a series of questions regarding what they hear the text saying. We will offer you suggested questions to use with the Bible study, as well as best practices for hosting a mutual invitation Bible study. We will also be providing you with resources or learning points around the text – these might be study points that you would like to bring up with your Bible study members after engaging the mutual invitation study for them to use in their own way. Of course, you will also have your own resources to bring to the text and we invite sharing of resources and ideas!