The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada, have joined with their Lutheran colleagues to offer a series of Lenten reflections. Together with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and National Bishop Susan Johnson from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, they have prepared reflections for Ash Wednesday, the five weeks in Lent, Palm Sunday and the Triduum.
Each reflection in the series Set free by truth begins with a series of four Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments, a Psalm and a Gospel – with three-sets for the Triduum. These are followed by a reflection by one of the bishops and a prayer. In the first of the reflections, for Ash Wednesday (14 February), Bishop Elizabeth Eaton writes about the need for racial equity in churches, saying: “We have been claimed in baptism, buried with Christ in a death like his, to be raised with Christ in a resurrection like his. We have already died the only death that really matters, and yet… We do not recognize the full humanity of others.”
The theme is continued by Archbishop Fred Hiltz who writes that “Lent is a time for us to be especially mindful of any and every arrogance reflecting the thought that some peoples are superior to others. I speak of the sins of racism, ethnic cleansing, and government-enforced policies of assimilation designed ‘to remake others in our image’.
“Lent is a season to confess these sins against our brothers and sisters. It is a time to correct attitudes, words, and actions, blatant or subtle that perpetuate them. It is a time to forge new relationships grounded in our baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people.”
Later in Lent, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry writes about “things that don’t make sense”. Speaking about the symbol of the cross, he said: “In those earliest years of the Jesus Movement, [Jesus’] followers didn’t wear crosses around their necks or hang them in the homes in which they worshipped. They had other symbols, certainly, but not crosses.
“Crucifixion was not a historical curiosity, but a still present reality, and an agonising and shameful one at that. To be crucified was to be executed as a common criminal. Worse, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, cursed was one who hung on a tree, on the wood of a cross.
“So to speak of ‘Christ crucified’ didn’t make sense to many. It was a stumbling block, something foolish or offensive. But Paul said otherwise. Yes, Jesus could have avoided the cross, found some other way around it. But instead he faced the worst the world could throw at him, and then broke through death itself, and leave an empty cross behind as witness to his astonishing victory.
“Some things don’t make much sense. The cross is one of them. But it stands now and forever as our rallying cry that God – not injustice, not suffering, not even death – has the final, victorious word.”
You can download the Set free by truth north American ecumenical reflections for Lent as a combined PDF, or download the individual reflections.