The Lenten Devotional is a faith-filled resource that compiles meditations written by 47 faith leaders from across the United States. This project and other public education work with faith leaders in HRC's Project One America states and HRC's Faith and Religion Program is made possible in part by the generous support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.
Read our Devotionals from 2019 here.
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How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give drink from the river of your delights. - Psalm 36:7-8, NIV
Maybe you’ve seen live Nativity scenes, but have you seen a Drive Through Holy Week Re-enactment? In an odd way, it captures the range of emotions that are Holy Week.
Join me in your imagination. Take time to linger in each place.
Palm Sunday: Families! Moms and dads. Children of all ages. Jack, a live donkey! You’re on the road leading to Jerusalem. Everyone waving palm branches. Palm branches line the street. People shouting Hosanna! The busy chatter of the community gathered. Sounds of Joy! “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Last Supper: Young people, mostly men, but a few women, too. At the table with bread and wine. The joyous chatter of friends gathered for a meal. A weight of seriousness, present but not quite identifiable. “As often as you drink it…”
The Garden of Gethsemane: A couple of disciples napping close to the road. In the distance, Jesus – alone – praying. “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
The Trial Before Pontius Pilate: “Crucify Him!”
The Road to Calvary: Jesus carries the cross. A crowd hurls stones at him.
Jesus hanging on a cross. Two guards on either side. Several women weeping at his feet. Utter silence.
This is Holy Week!
For some, this is every week. One moment surrounded by friends celebrating and welcoming us with gladness! Another moment cursed and marginalized. And at times a deafening silence! In every moment, surrounded by God’s steadfast love.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears – we open our hearts to all of Holy Week. We “feast on the abundance of your house and…drink from the river of your delights,” trusting that your steadfast love brings redemption and resurrection!
United Methodist clergy
Associate Dean of the Chapel & Religious Life
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” - Acts 10:15
Peter was praying and had a vision. God showed him unclean animals and told him to eat them. Peter argued with God as he pointed out piously that he never ate anything that would make him unclean! God corrected him and said not to call something unclean if God has made it clean.
God was giving Peter a revelation about the Gentiles, who, according to the Law, were an abomination or unclean. In this story, Jesus showed Peter just how inclusive, impartial and powerful His grace is. He was calling Peter out of religious supremacy into unmerited grace and unconditional love. Then, God sent Peter to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. There in Cornelius’ home, they experienced their very own Pentecost! God showed Peter that he should not call anyone impure or unclean. God taught Peter to extend grace, mercy and love to everyone as He does---without bias, cost or reservations. God’s love is for everyone!
This story saved my life. I was wrestling with my sexuality and faith, trying desperately to reconcile the two. I was having an identity crisis. Was I Pastor Brandiilyne or an abomination…unclean and unworthy?
Like Peter, I was caught up in "religion,” where grace was earned, and love was conditional. I could hear the voices of religion shouting within me, “unclean!” Then, God spoke to me with the words he gave Peter, “No one can call you unclean...because I made you clean.”
Easter morning 2012, I got it! This was the greatest discovery of my life. Finally, I understood the truth about God's radical grace and unconditional love. That is when I accepted my sexuality and came out.
Jesus finished the work on the cross. There is nothing that anyone can do or say to take that from you. You are accepted! You are loved! You are clean!
Rev. Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear
Joshua Generation Community Church
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. - Psalm 51:12, NIV
I never knew how side eyes cut until I started getting them.
Finally, I made the decision to be authentically me, to stand in my own power.
I’m growing and glowing, taking responsibility for my life and co-creating my best life with God.
I wake up feeling amazing, singing Jill Scott’s “living my life like it’s golden!”
I am so grateful to be alive and in this space. I love the newness of each day...the possibilities that being alive and well offer.
I look good, smell good, feel good.
Everyone can see the smile and joy in my spirit. I attract the same great energy everywhere I go, even in Walmart! People smile, speak and start random conversations with me.
I get the occasional hater side eye but smile right past it.
I know I’m in my vibe, and can’t no one kill it!
Then, I noticed the whispers, the abrupt end of conversations when I walked into a room. After a couple of weeks dodging the shade, I realized it was deliberate. The talk was definitely about me. Who does she think she is? I heard this about her.... She’s not all that....
I wanted to hide and cry. I wanted to defend myself, to tell them the real story.
Then, it dawned on me. I prayed for this confidence. I asked God to lift up my bowed down head. I prayed for healing from sorrow and from pain. I prayed to be in this space of peace and contentment. I prayed my joy would be restored...and it was!
I wasn’t at all prepared for the shade, but I couldn’t play the victim. I’ve been on the throwing side of shade before. That gave me pause to wonder. Recalling how I threw shade on him/her/them made me realize that maybe, just maybe, at the time I shaded them, she/he/they were in their golden place, too. I realized they had a right to live joyfully without fear of being judged or questioned.
She has the right to be absolutely amazing!
He has the right to dance and smile.
They have a right to sing out loud!
Maybe they prayed like I did...with a bowed down head and tears in my eyes. I asked God to restore my joy, to snatch me out of the valley, that low place I’d been in for so long. I begged God to let me be happy again.
During Lent, I pray that you, too, will experience the God who answers prayer, the God who can lift you up out of dark places, and give you a spirit that no longer throws shade but celebrates the beautiful transformations in the lives of your neighbors.
Rev. LaSonya Debose
Pass Christian, Mississippi
A Jewish Reflection at a Holy Season
Judaism, rather than primarily being a collection of beliefs, is above all a set of mitzvot—that is, religious actions through which we become holy and share our holiness with the world.
Many people believe the first mitzvah, the first religious injunction in our sacred scriptures, is be fruitful and multiply. The rabbinic sages, though, considered these words a blessing, not a commandment. They locate the first mitzvah much later, in a seemingly unimportant verse, Exodus 12:2: “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.”
Those familiar with Judaism may imagine that Exodus 12 refers to the autumn month of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. However, those who know Exodus realize that Scripture is referring to the springtime month when Passover occurs.
How can the first day of the first month be some time other than the new year? The Mishnah, our sages’ first Jewish legal code, explains that there are four new years. We begin counting months in springtime. We celebrate the new year of the human soul on Rosh Hashanah. Two others are new years for trees and for a specific tithe in effect only in Temple times.
If we think about it, our own lives include several “new years.” We celebrate January 1. We begin a new year on our birthday. Some experience life on an academic calendar. Many companies and nonprofit organizations operate with a fiscal year that does not begin January 1.
Scripture has a special reason for designating Nisan the first month, and the rabbis had good cause to amplify that. The natural world is reborn in springtime. More importantly, the Israelites are born as a people with the liberation from bondage, pointing toward receiving the Torah at Sinai.
Life often presents us with a need to hit a reset button. We need new beginnings--a new job, new home, new hometown, new life after a traumatic loss. Sometimes, we need to reset a relationship. We need to become the person we’re destined to be but haven’t been—a process well known to those who have come out as LGBTQ.
I pray that, just as we celebrate January 1, we will all find renewal in springtime, this year and every year.
Rabbi Barry H. Block
Congregation B’nai Israel
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
My grandmother used to say, “What is old is new again.” She was referencing style, but she could easily have been discussing discrimination.
Young churches in Galatia were influenced more by Mosaic Laws than Jesus’ teachings, death and ascension to Heaven. The written law on a stone tablet held more power than the Holy Spirit, which is meant to be felt. Paul drafted the epistle as a warning that focusing on the law over the Holy Spirit is akin to following false prophets.
Some two thousand years later, we are more like those early churchgoers than we care to admit. We prioritize “religious liberty,” using God’s laws to discriminate and persecute the LGBTQ community. Paul tells us no law can come against good qualities like love and kindness that the Holy Spirit implants in our hearts. Early churchgoers were hearing Paul’s words advocating loving one another for the first time; certainly, we are not. God’s Laws were never meant to beat people down; they were meant to protect us, to give us joy.
The Holy Spirit is the inner voice that reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made that illustrates in very graphic detail how deeply we are loved. That love comes with no conditions, only a request to honor that love by extending it to others. When we use these old “religious liberty” laws to demean or pass judgement on someone else, we defy Paul’s instructions, essentially denying the gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus gave us.
If there is any question regarding Paul’s words about the law versus the Holy Spirit, we need only look at Jesus’s words at the Sermon on the Mount: Great blessings belong to those whose thoughts are pure. They will be with God. --Matthew 5:8, ERV
A prayer of repentance from King David after committing adultery:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. - Psalm 51:1-3, NIV
Stay in your Lane
King David is guilty of a royal screw up. He had an affair with a woman whose husband was in the military. David sent the husband to the front lines to die in battle. We all agree this is morally unacceptable. David needed to get his life together. However, David has a bigger problem. He has forgotten who is in charge and who has the power to forgive.
Initially, David is doing okay with his apology. He admits he screwed up and asks forgiveness. And though He believed God would forgive him, he couldn’t forgive himself.
In the LGBTQ+ community, we are really good at understanding how not to judge when it comes to others. Our loving, accepting, tolerant personalities constantly encourage others, but we struggle to find something positive to say about ourselves. We don’t think we’re good enough to be forgiven. God says we are.
God is love. You are the child of love – pure and perfect love.
During this season of Lent, embrace God’s forgiveness fully...and embrace your own. You are already good enough for God. Believe you are good enough for yourself. In God’s eyes, your past doesn’t define your present or your future.
Your every moment is defined by God’s love.
Walk in that love, and share it with others.
Lay Member, Episcopal Church
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to [God]—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... - 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NIV)
My father is Puerto Rican, and my mother is Korean.
My dad was in the Army, so we moved around a lot. Very often, I found myself a new kid in a new school. The concept of being bi-racial was not something I understood as a kid, and it sure wasn’t anything the other kids understood. Still, I was bullied.
I started going to a United Methodist Church (UMC) in middle school, and it was at that church that I was welcomed and loved for just being who I am. The church became my home. No matter how often we moved, there was always a UMC that welcomed me.
I went to seminary because I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to learn how to nurture and create these kinds of inclusive loving communities.
While at seminary, I fell in love with a girl (now my wife), and the church that loved me, called me and nurtured me..the Church that was my home...began calling me "incompatible with Christian teaching.”
No longer did I feel safe in my own church because of who I am, and who I love.
I served as a pastor for almost two years in the closet, not living my life in the light of day.
Today, I work to change these oppressive policies in the United Methodist Church, along with advocating for many other justice issues. My ministry is wider, deeper and way more effective as an out layperson then it ever was when I was a closeted clergy person.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of [the God] who called you out of darkness into [God’s] wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
Bridget Cabrera, Executive Director
Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA)
I could feel the beads of sweat dripping down my back as I made my way to the well.
My shoulders strained to keep the jug upright, though I had yet to fill it. The blistering sun and sand fatigued me, adding to the weariness I already felt in my soul.
I’d been forced to collect my water during the middle of the afternoon, when the day is hottest, because I could not bear one more morning listening to judgmental whispers and avoiding eye contact with the women who used to be my friends. Comparatively, the scorching heat felt like mercy.
As the well came into view, my heart sunk upon seeing him...a Jew. Wasn’t it enough being shunned by my own people? Now I must deal with his disdain for me, too?
I focused on gathering the water and leaving as quickly as possible. When the man asked for a drink, I was so startled I nearly dropped my jug.
We were not exactly on speaking terms. In terms of social status, Jews never address Samaritans, and men do not speak to unfamiliar women, especially women like me. He was breaking all the rules.
Unable to stop myself, I made a sarcastic quip at him and expected that to be the end of it. I was surprised when he answered my retort and invited me to banter.
It was only when he mentioned my husband that my breath caught, and my face flushed. He seemed to see my depths; he could see through me. How did he know? He was a stranger.
For years I had been an outcast, rejected by a rejected people. Yet, this man was engaging me with a loving kindness that transcended culture, status and my past. Could he be the One? Heat forgotten, I ran full speed back to town to tell the others. Somehow, they believed me.
A smile crosses my lips as I think about that day, heading back to that same well. I can feel the cool breeze of early morning brush against my face.
Rev. Heather Lundy and Zach Verwey wrote this devotional together. They work at Khesed Wellness, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides affordable mental health and wellness services to the underinsured. Heather and Zach are licensed professional counselors and proudly part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 2:5, KJV
The season of Lent is a season of sacrifice.
Although the meaning is quite familiar to us, the word sacrifice has almost disappeared from the modern American Christian vocabulary. To sacrifice means to surrender something of value for something deemed to be of greater value.
Jesus knows what it means to sacrifice.
And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 5:2, NIV
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. - Hebrews 9:28, NIV
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. - Mark 10:45, NIV
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. - John 15:13, NIV
Having the mind of Christ creates in us a willingness to sacrifice, an appreciation for the sacrifices of others and an appreciation for the great sacrifice of our Savior.
The American brand of Christianity is forever growing more and more selfish. I pray that our personal sacrifices during this Lenten season will have each of us trading our selfishness for the selflessness of Christ.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher.) - 1 John 20:14-16, NSRV
How is it that Mary might not have recognized Jesus? As a trusted companion, she loved him and walked alongside him for the greater part of his ministry, the depth of her unending love made visible through her tears. She alone remained at Jesus’ side through his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection while others---including many of his disciples---fled out of fear. And yet she mistook him for the Gardner.
How might our experience mirror that of Mary’s as we find ourselves in a season of despair? Many of us queer folks have witnessed the loss of our inner spiritual guide and lover as it faced its own Sanhedrin as a false prophet. We watched in horror as our Spirit was condemned by political institutions and a crazed mob incited by self-righteous religious zealots. Our inner Lord was scourged and then crucified as tears flowed until there were no more. And so that part of us, if we were ever lucky enough to know it, died and was buried. Some of us wander the Garden today looking for our Rabbouni, while others of us walk away from an empty tomb. But I say to you on this glorious and Holy day that my Lord and yours has risen and is calling.
Do you hear your name being called?
So, I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. - Luke 11:9
Rev. Alyss M. Swanson
Deacon of Reconciling Ministries
United Methodist Church
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