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.
Abandonment is an all too common experience for LGBTQ+ persons. When we “come out” as our authentic selves, we risk being abandoned by our family, friends, colleagues and faith communities. It can be exhausting navigating the many ways one must come out during daily life. Just as there are beautiful experiences of being loved and affirmed; there are times we are rejected, dismissed or condemned.
Abandonment leaves our hearts wounded and makes it difficult to trust others. This pain and fear is something I know all too well from my experience of coming out as queer. The resounding “no” I heard from the denomination of my childhood made me wonder if God would abandon me, too. Many nights my prayer was, “my God, my God, please don’t forsake me!”
It was in a school chapel service that I was reminded that our God is faithful no matter what. The congregation sang the 18th century hymn How Firm a Foundation. I was blown away by the last verse:
“The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”
Much of this hymn is written in the voice of God, assuring the reader of God’s steadfast love and enduring faithfulness. The final verse uses a quintuple negative to assert that the Lord God will never abandon God’s own, regardless of any foe, power or principality. God is seriously committed to each of us, especially when we are abandoned time and time again.
Take heart, beloved sibling in Christ. The God who fearfully and wonderfully made you will never, no, never, no, never forsake you! Amen.
Katie Sorey - Jackson, Mississippi
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31, NIV
When Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, there were many Priests and high governmental officials in Jerusalem. However, the official invitation went out to shepherds keeping watch over their flock in the Judean hills nearby. We can only speculate as to the many reasons for this breakdown in protocol. Usually, the privileged are first. But perhaps this was an official announcement that Grace just entered our world...Grace that shows no favoritism...Grace that sees no nationality, color or gender...Grace that has come into our world to announce Whosoever!
The birth, life and death of Jesus leveled the playing field for all humanity! No longer does one have to be of Jewish descent or meet the criteria of Old Testament law to be part of the family of God. The sacrifice of Jesus for the sin of humanity has been accomplished. Now, Whosoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved (Romans 10:13)! LGBTQ or heterosexual, the requirement is the same. In Christ there are no second class family members.
As we move through this blessed season of Lent, how do we prepare for this family celebration? The royal commandment sums up all scripture: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37). A powerful moment happens when a person who was anti-LGBTQ comes alongside one of their LGBTQ neighbors and because of the life and love of the LGBTQ person has a change of heart. Wow!
We are living in changing times. Hearts and minds are being challenged to revisit calloused prejudices. Eyes are on the LGBTQ community and its allies. There are still too many out there who hate, but it will not be said of us!
As we prepare ourselves to come to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the world will know us by our Love.
Whosoever means YOU precious, believing LGBTQ child of God. Grace has come at last!
Mary Jane Kennedy
At noon the whole country became dark. The darkness continued for three hours. About three o’clock Jesus cried out loudly, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” This means “My God, my God, why have you left me alone?” - Matthew 27:45-46, ERV
Near the crucifixion’s climax, darkness settled over the land for three hours. During Lent, darkness hovers over the church for 40 days. We turn to somber reflection.
Christ’s trial and execution story is heavy with examples of the worst in humanity. Lenten meditations include reflections on what is worst in ourselves. Most of us don’t have blood on our hands, but we’ve all made wretched decisions.
When we do, we are beset by guilt and apt to flog ourselves with it. Recently, I deeply hurt my best friend. I was horrified, telling myself, “You’re not as good a person as you thought!”
Guilt over shortcomings can make us deal harshly with ourselves. Judas, in his guilt of betrayal, hanged himself. He never questioned whether Jesus would forgive him; he couldn’t forgive himself. We tend to be hardest on ourselves. But even in the aftermath of wrongdoing, when our souls are darkest, we can and must find light. There is always light.
Even at this bleakest point in the gospel, there is light. Pilate judges, yet his wife urges mercy. Jesus is forsaken by the crowd, mocked by criminals and tortured by soldiers – but there is Simon, who helped carry Jesus’ terrible burden. In the tombs of death, there is life: the dead rise!
The crucifixion– a vile, painful experience beyond my imagination – is the prologue to a story of great light, redemption and spiritual victory. In the heart of suffering – be it wrongs done to you or guilt for your own wrongs – there is peace.
We should always be aware of our faults and strive to improve. But we shouldn’t let them define us, nor endlessly punish ourselves over them. Just as the crucifixion is a prelude to the resurrection, so Lent is a prelude to Easter.
Lent may be a season for reflecting on our shortcomings, but it is also preparation for their purging. We can’t stop being flawed, but we can stop clinging to guilt.
God isn’t waiting to punish us, nor should we punish ourselves.
Kristine Luna Kali
“Greetings favored one,” the angel says to Mary, “The Lord is with you.” Then, in an attempt to quell her anxiety, he says, “Do not be afraid.” - Luke 1:26-38, NIV
The Jewish theologian Elie Wiesel says, If an angel says to you ‘Do not be afraid’ then you better watch out! And afraid one would be when an angel, in this case Gabriel, informs Mary that she will bear Jesus, “the son of the Most High.”
Mary, of course, question how this can be. Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…for nothing is impossible with God.” Yet, in spite of her fear or anxiety of this news, Mary responds, “Hear I am, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Reflecting on this passage, it occurs to me that perhaps the reason Mary agreed saying, “Let it be with me,” is because that was precisely what was going on. God was not doing something to her; God was doing something with her.
I know what it’s like to step out of what is comfortable into a whole new world. Leaving parish ministry in 2014 after 12 years, I stepped into the world of LGBTQ advocacy with much fear and anxiety. The reason I was able to move forward, however, was because I knew that I was not alone. There were other advocates who would work alongside me who would aid and guide me in the work for LGBTQ equality. While it hasn’t been an easy endeavor, when it was presented to me, I’m glad fear and anxiety did not keep me from saying “let it be with me.”
Very often, when something unexpected occurs which causes us concern, we immediately think God, the Universe or however you define the forces around us are doing something to us rather than with us. When God is with us, the promise is that we are never alone.
What “angel” is inviting you to something new and unexpected? My hope and prayer is fear and anxiety do not prevent you from saying “let it be with me.”
Mississippi State Director
Human Rights Campaign
Jesus went from there to the area of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that area came out and began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, please help me! My daughter has a demon inside her, and she is suffering very much.” But Jesus did not answer her. So the followers came to him and said, “Tell her to go away. She keeps crying out and will not leave us alone.” Jesus answered, “God sent me only to the lost people of Israel.” Then the woman came over to Jesus and bowed before him. She said, “Lord, help me!” He answered her with this saying: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.”The woman said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the pieces of food that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! You will get what you asked for.” And right then the woman’s daughter was healed. - Matthew 15:21-18, ERV
A Greater Love Than Imagined
She is a woman. He is a man.
She is a Canaanite. He is Jewish.
She is alone. He is with a group.
His friends demand she go away. Jesus agrees.
She tries again. Jesus doubles down.
This scenario is all too common, especially for those on the margins of society in the United States - people who are LGBTQ, people of color, people with different abilities, people whose primary language isn’t English and people of various religions. Encountering people who do not understand can range from annoying to dangerous.
The story does not end with Jesus calling the woman a dog. Jesus is moved by her tenacity and her faith in a larger Love than had been taught before. Some say Jesus knew what he was doing all along, that he was testing the woman.
I prefer following a Jesus who is willing to recognize he has been affected by his environment, can learn and be changed. I can follow that Jesus because of his humanity. I can follow that Jesus because he knows what it is like to mess up and even hurt someone who did nothing to deserve it. This Jesus knows, as Justin Tanis wrote, “God’s love is not restricted to one category of people, those who choose one way of living or being in this world. There is enough for all.”
The woman received healing for her daughter.
I think the conversation continued a bit longer than scripture records. In my imagined ending, she told Jesus, “Really, it is not okay to call me a dog.” Jesus replied “I hear you and apologize. Thank you for helping me see a greater love.”
During your Lenten journey, think about what it means to reclaim God’s abundant love in your life.
The Rev. Angela Henderson explores where faith and life’s crossroads meet as a hospital chaplain. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.
Then the deceiver led Jesus up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the deceiver said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” - Luke 4:5-7, NRSV
At What Cost?
No doubt about it. Queer communities have come under increased attacks these past few years. Efforts to roll back our hard-worn human rights are constant and sometimes done in the name of religious liberty. It can be exhausting to continuously struggle for our rights in the classroom, workplace, government and even in our places of worship.
Being exhausted leaves us vulnerable.
In the Christian account of Jesus’ encounter with the deceiver, Jesus went for days without food. In his hunger and fatigue, the deceiver promises him the world, if only he would worship the evil one over God.
In our vulnerability and concern for our rights, we are tempted to compromise our bodies. We struggle with those in power who promise us the world. If we agree to deny rights to the “other,” power will embrace us as fully human. Ensuring our LGBQ rights over the rights of our Trans siblings for instance, is too high a price to pay for assimilation. Maintaining our systematic privilege over those oppressed by a system makes us complicit.
Jesus shouted “No!” to worshipping the deceiver, never wavering in his commitment to follow a God of Love. Jesus would not be lured into false riches.
We are called to do the same, especially as Queer people of faith. No one is free unless all are free.
The time is now to stand united, stay firm and find the strength in one another to overcome whatever fatigue we may experience in our struggle for a just world for all. Amen.
Roberto Ochoa, M.Div.
Associate for Congregations of Color/Ethnic Identified Congregations
United Church of Christ
A Call to Worship and Obedience
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.” - Psalm 95:1-11, ESV
Psalm 95 calls us to do something contradictory to the season of Lent -- to sing and “make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” As a Baptist Minister of Music’s kid, this is easy for me. I grew up singing my faith--learning the theology that would come to shape my life from the songs I sang before I even understood what their words meant.
When I came out as a lesbian in my early twenties -- a time when I never doubted if God loved me, but doubted daily if God’s people did -- I often found comfort and joy in returning to the songs of praise I learned in my childhood. I may not have been welcome in the church sanctuary, but no one could keep me from worshipping God through song. Whether singing “How Great Thou Art,” “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” or “ Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” I found myself able to rest once again in the love of God I knew deep in my soul.
Songs of praise kept my heart open to the wonders and holy mysteries of God’s work in this world and in my own life in ways I may have missed otherwise.
As LGBTQ people of faith, we must reclaim and redefine the joy of worshipping a God who loves us just as we are. Whether your “songs of praise” are hymns or the harmonies of voices on the front lines of actions for justice and liberation, may you find ways to lift your voice in praise this Lenten season for the gift of the deep love God has for us all.
Political Director, Faith in Public Life Action Fund