Lent Devotions

Lent is a season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6th, and ends the Saturday before Easter. It is a time of preparation, of self-examination and of reflection as we journey toward the cross. The seven devotions in this collection, designed so that you can use one for each week of Lent, focus on ways we can honor Jesus by caring for others.


Ash Wednesday | March 6
Lent Calendar

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Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.


Week 1 | March 10
The Lenten pilgrimage — reconnecting with our souls

By Mike Carscaddon

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” — Romans 6:4, New International Version

I suspect that this may be one of the most powerful Lenten seasons of my life. You see, for the first two weeks of Lent, I will be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. My fellow pilgrims and I will make our way to many of the traditional biblical sites. We will have the opportunity to reaffirm our baptismal vows in the Jordan River at Bethany Beyond Jordan, the location believed to be where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

We will end our journey by walking the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “Way of Sorrow”), the processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem and the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which, according to tradition, contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, a place known as Calvary or Golgotha; and Jesus’ empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected.

A pilgrimage is an opportunity to reconnect with your soul. To help prepare myself, I have been reading Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage. It provides a model for people seeking another way to travel, a simple model to help them find more purpose and more meaning, even more connection to the countless generations of those who have traveled before us. I’ve learned about the longing we all have for direct contact with the sacred and how best to fully experience each of the stages of the journey ahead. The challenge is to learn how to carry over the quality of the journey into everyday life.

That sort of deep purpose found in pilgrimage may also be found in our work at Habitat for Humanity. I’m excited to walk in the places where Jesus walked, and I’m excited that Habitat’s mission provides us a wonderful opportunity to live out Jesus’ call to love and serve our neighbors. May we continue our faith pilgrimage each day and seek to draw nearer to Jesus.

Prayer

Gracious God, how blessed is this holy season of Lent, when through the Passion of Jesus, Earth and heaven are joined, and we are reconciled to God. During the coming days, help us to reconnect our souls to the amazing power of Your love. Amen.

Questions

  1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage, whether to a religious holy site or to a secular place, such as a hall of fame or the home of a famous writer?
  2. How did you prepare for this journey to find the meaning you were looking for?
  3. What did you bring home from your journey? What do you hope for at the end of this Lenten journey?
  4. What makes your work at Habitat for Humanity meaningful?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Mike Carscaddon is Habitat for Humanity International’s executive vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer.


Week 2 | March 17
Honoring the poor

By Jim Copeland

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here’s a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there,' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” — James 2:2-5

In the early 2000s, at the end of a meeting of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International in Hyderabad, India, we met for a wrap-up session. Vera Randall from Australia talked about walking through a slum area near the hotel where we were meeting. She made it a practice to visit slum areas whenever she traveled and encouraged other board members to do the same. When she looked into the faces of the poorest of the poor, she said she often saw the face of Jesus.

Vera’s observation has stayed with me over the years, and as I’ve walked through poverty-stricken cities or served a meal in a homeless shelter, I, too, have sometimes seen divinity in the eyes of the poor.

How could this be? The answer is found early in the Scripture in Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Connecting with people in need as we work together to build a house or simply making eye contact with less fortunate neighbors promotes dignity and hope. This has been a core principle of Habitat for Humanity since its founding.

What a privilege to see the face of Jesus! During this Lenten season, may we seek out ways we can encounter Jesus by honoring the poor.

Prayer

Lord, please remind us to look into the faces of the poor — that in so doing, we may promote dignity and hope and know that we are all made in Your image. We are neighbors called to care for each other. Amen.

Questions

  1. When have you felt the presence of God as you extended your hand to a person in need?
  2. In social situations, have you ever gravitated toward a well-off person while ignoring someone obviously poor in material goods? What will you commit to do differently?
  3. In your work with Habitat, how are you promoting dignity and hope and honoring people in need of adequate shelter?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Jim Copeland is a former member and vice chair of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International.


Week 3 | March 24
The Kingdom of God

By Larry Prible

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” — Isaiah 65:17

During the 1999 Carter Work Project in the Philippines, I met Edward, a mason. He had no shoes and no gloves, and his hands and feet were dry and tight from years of handling mortar. I developed a tremendous respect for this man who worked so hard. I was a crew leader, which meant I got to wear a red hat. Edward deserved it more than I did, so I gave it to him.

As the week went on, I suggested to Edward that maybe someday he could move into a Habitat home. He just shook his head and said, “Oh, no. It’s only a dream.” What do you say to someone who lives in such horrendous conditions, who can’t even allow himself to dream of something better?

Job says, “If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness, ... where then is my hope?” That question weighed on my heart for several days. But God led me to the good news, His promise of a new earth and the eternal reign of Christ in Isaiah 65 when all things are made right.

“Be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.”

Isaiah 65:18-19, 21-22

You see, Edward, there is a home for you! You can have hope! Because our God wants to transform the world!

God has a dream for Edward, for the Philippines and for the world. Jesus called that vision the kingdom of God, and you and I have important roles to play as part of that kingdom here on Earth. During this Lenten season, may we focus on helping others to see the world that Jesus saw for us. May we help those we encounter see themselves as precious, as valuable and worth seeking out. Let us share the message that, through Christ, each person is brave, strong, known and loved.

The kingdom of God will not be actualized in its fullness until Jesus comes again. But between now and then, we can create a glimmer of that heavenly kingdom in our communities and throughout the world. Certainly through Habitat, we can help millions of people be delivered from poverty. They will be able to hope and can build a better future.

Prayer

Jesus, thank You for the hope of heaven. We celebrate the fact that You are alive and that Your kingdom has begun. Help us to live in the light of the glory to come. Fill us with Your hope for the world and empower us to carry out Your plans for us. We love You, Jesus. Amen.

Questions

  1. Do you have hope for what God has for you and for this world?
  2. Does the passage from Isaiah 65 help you see your part in the kingdom of God and Habitat’s role in it? How?
  3. What causes us to think so little about heaven? (Suggested reading: Heaven by Randy Alcorn)

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Larry Prible is a former member of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International. He also chaired the U.S. Council and served on the board’s executive committee.


Week 4 | March 31
Acts of mercy

By Archbishop Vicken Aykazian

We hear a great deal about prayer and fasting during Lent, but the season has a third dimension, one that directs our spiritual efforts outside of ourselves, into the world.

Our Lenten model comes from Jesus himself. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ gave us specific, practical advice about praying and fasting. He completed the picture of spiritual living with an activity as holy as prayer, as venerable as fasting: giving alms to the poor (Matthew 6:1-4, King James Version).

“Almsgiving” — a term so old-fashioned that it almost pushes you away — is the English word for this neglected dimension of Lent.

In Armenian Christian spirituality, however, the term we use is much more evocative: voghormoutiun (voh-ghor-moo-TYOON). It’s not an easy word to pronounce; but to ears attuned to the prayers of the Armenian Church, it recalls our mystical hymn, “Der Voghormia” — literally “Lord Have Mercy.” Voghormoutiun means “mercifulness” or “acts of mercy.” Through our prayers, we ask God to have mercy on us; through our actions, voghormoutiun is the mercy we show to others.

Fasting is about you and your body. Prayer is about you and your relationship with God. But voghormoutiun can only be done in the presence of other people. It’s the social dimension of Lent.

Certainly, the practice involves giving money or food to the poor. That’s the dictionary definition of almsgiving, but performing acts of mercy involves more than writing a check or dropping coins into a needy person’s hand. The Armenian term conveys a deeper meaning of not only giving of your things, but the giving of yourself. It’s about being generous with your time and your attention to the needs of others.

That is our challenge during Lent, and it is as profound as the disciplines of fasting and prayer. It’s a challenge familiar to Habitat for Humanity: to recognize the divine spark in each human soul — the way Jesus showed us. “When you do merciful deeds,” he said, “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret” (Matthew 6:3-4, World English Bible). It’s a clue to the attitude that should guide us. The test of voghormoutiun is not whether the stranger approaches us to say “thank you.” It’s whether we can approach the stranger to say “you’re welcome.”

Prayer

Lord, show us ways we can humbly offer acts of mercy during this Lenten season and beyond. Help us to recognize how others are experiencing physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Place in our hearts the desire to respond generously in ways that require giving of ourselves. Amen.

Questions

  1. It is sometimes easy to recognize physical needs like food, clothing or shelter, but how can we be more attuned to other kinds of neediness, such as people living in spiritual pain and poverty? How might we better recognize those who are disaffected, depressed and lost? How should we respond?
  2. What do you picture when you hear the term “almsgiving?” How is that different from acts of mercy? How might that difference affect the way you observe Lent?
  3. We think a lot about the need to say “thank you,” but not so much about the need to say “you’re welcome.” Take a moment to reflect on the deeper meaning of those words as a reply to gratitude. How might they relate to Jesus’ teaching on generosity?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian is Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and is a former member of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International.


Week 5 | April 7
Pondering the Beatitudes

By Chantal Hudicourt Ewald

I discovered the depth of the teachings of Christ in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 when I met with a committee of Habitat for Humanity in a small town in Illinois. I had been invited to speak in a church to which they belonged. In preparation for the Sunday religious services, we came together the evening before to share reflections on the meaning of the Beatitudes.

Since then, whenever life’s troubles push my spirit far to the side, I rely on this passage of the Gospel to fill myself again with the wisdom of what God expects of us during our walk through this life. These words from Jesus are also poignant reminders as we draw near to the end of our Lenten journey.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Does Jesus not tell us that a true Christian has a spontaneous spirit, free of all preconceived notions? He points to the spirit of a child as an example of what he seeks from each of us.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
God will give the earth to those who are gentle. If we all followed this teaching, would there still be war, social exclusion or divisions among us?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Jesus knows that humans feel emptiness. Satisfaction comes in longing for God’s justice and yearning to be faithful disciples.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
We will harvest what we have sown. God gives to those who give to others. Does Jesus not reinforce this teaching when he speaks of feeding the hungry and offering drink to the thirsty?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Whatever we do, we must do it with a pure heart, with no self-interest, with no hatred or revenge, no bad will or resentment. We must be self-disciplined and keep the good of the other person foremost in our minds.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Jesus asks that we place our personalities, our attitudes and our actions at the service of peace. He calls us to be instruments in His hands — instruments to eliminate division among people and to invest ourselves in the establishment of love and goodwill among all people.

Jesus announces that it is in following his teachings that we become his children, that we will see and enter into his kingdom. But Jesus also announces that the way is not easy: joy, comfort and the entry into paradise to be with God come through suffering.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To accept the mission that Jesus confides to us in the Beatitudes is to accept tears; to accept the struggle for justice for all people; to accept that we will be persecuted, insulted and accused falsely, just as Jesus accepted these sufferings when he was on earth.

As he taught by both preaching and living the Beatitudes, suffering leads to glory, the glory of his resurrection and return to his Father. Jesus reminds everyone that, by following his teaching and accepting the suffering that comes from this choice, the kingdom of heaven will be open to us and, like Jesus, we will know the glory of our encounter with God. May we be near to those who suffer, those who strive to have a decent place in which to live that preserves dignity and installs hope in their lives.

Prayer

Lord, help us, through the suffering of life and the privations of Lent, to enter deeply into ourselves and live fully the teachings of Jesus in the Beatitudes. Then, as promised by the Beatitudes, we will become children of God, enter God’s kingdom and celebrate the joy of meeting Christ on the day of Resurrection.

Questions

  1. Do we make it a habit to always treat others as we would like to be treated?
  2. When meeting people from different cultures, religions and races — or those in need — are we able to understand and accept their values and how they would like these needs to be met?
  3. To what extent are we ready to suffer for others and have a child’s heart in our everyday lives?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Chantal Hudicourt Ewald is a former chair of Habitat for Humanity Haiti and a former member of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International.


Week 6 | April 14
Honoring Jesus by serving others

By Edgar Stoesz

“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you... for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25:34-36, 40

Just a few days from now, the Habitat network will join with Christians everywhere on Easter morning by greeting each other with these words: “Christ the Lord is risen,” followed by the joyous and resolute reply, “He is risen, indeed.”

We are numbered among the followers, the imitators, of this Jesus who asks us to love the Lord our God and our neighbor as ourselves. While here on Earth, Jesus paused repeatedly to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of people he encountered. He said to his amazed disciples, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

This is the foundation on which Habitat was built. In its simplest and best form, Habitat is a microcosm of the life and teachings of Jesus. Through Habitat and like ministries, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us as described in John 1:14.

That is what moved Clarence Jordan when he saw the hovels in which his sharecropping neighbors were living. It motivated him to devise a plan as bold as it was unorthodox — to build houses not for but with people. So he attracted a cross section of like-minded people, including Millard and Linda Fuller, to be a part of this movement. Soon they were joined by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, and ultimately millions of others who were united around the goal of demonstrating the love of Jesus by helping those in need of adequate shelter. The momentum could not be contained, and the work of Habitat spread around the world.

Prayer

Lord, we pause to thank You for entering into our world with a life-changing message. We are reminded that when we provide shelter for Your children, we are honoring You. We ask humbly that You receive our offering and multiply it as You did with the loaves and the fish, so that many may have the shelter they need and deserve. Make us aware always that You are among us as we seek to render this service in Your name. Amen.

Questions

  1. As you work with families in need of shelter, do you think of it as fulfilling the commands of Jesus to love your neighbor?
  2. What specific things will you commit to do during this Lenten season and beyond to honor Jesus by serving others? (See the “Forty positive actions for Lent” below.)
  3. Ponder these words of St. Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.” How have you experienced that?
  4. As you work with those who will soon become homeowners, how do you demonstrate a Christian spirit of humility that builds dignity and self-respect?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Edgar Stoesz is a former member and chair of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International.


Week 7 | Good Friday
Why not on a horse?

By Sybout van der Meer

“Say to Daughter Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

Matthew 21:5

As a lover of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, every year on Good Friday, I am in one of the historic churches in Amsterdam or The Hague listening to the German version of the Mattheüs Passion. During Holy Week this year, I will also attend a modern musical called The Passion.

Both performances tell a story of glorification against disappointment, distress and loss. Those are inevitable experiences of life for nearly all of us. Both the classic composition of Bach and the modern musical invite us to reflect on the events of the last week of Jesus’ life as we consider our personal walk with Christ.

The scene that the Gospel writer describes is what we have come to call Palm Sunday. Likely, he had witnessed the triumphal entry of a conquering emperor or a general sitting high upon his horse. Isn’t this how a great ruler should make an entrance?

In contrast, Matthew mentions how the servant king, Jesus, entered Jerusalem riding a donkey.
The conqueror comes in looking on people from on high. They have to raise their heads to see his face, while the servant king and the people in the crowd can see each other face-to-face, eye-to-eye.

At times, relief workers with the best intentions did not realize that they behaved as little emperors, sitting on a high horse. May Habitat for Humanity be blessed with workers who are by preference on an equal footing with those they work alongside to build a better future. May we always be humble and faithful working in the way Jesus showed us.

Prayer

Dear Lord, help us to see how Jesus totally shared life with the hungry and thirsty ones, looked after those who had no shelter, healed the wounded and the sick. We thank You for Jesus’ life. The Easter message with the promise of new life is an encouragement for us to support worldwide initiatives of new life for our sisters and brothers in need. Make us real servants of Your promised new world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions

  1. How do you express the holiness of this week before Easter?
  2. Do you recognize how those who seek to offer help could easily be seen as ones “high on a horse”? How can you encourage the heart of a servant in others?
  3. Do you need to make adjustments to your own work attitude?
  4. How can you encourage and support the people around you who seek to create peace and justice on all levels?

Rather than emphasizing what you will “give up” for Lent, focus on positive actions you can take to demonstrate the extraordinary love of Jesus.

Sybout van der Meer is the founder and was chairman of Habitat for Humanity Netherlands and is a former member of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International.


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