"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice...? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry...?" (Isaiah 58:6a, 7a).
Brethren organizations and ecumenical partners are making a wide variety of resources available for study and reflection in this season of Lent:
- "The Cost of Following Jesus: Devotions for Ash Wednesday Through Easter" by J.D. Glick is the annual Lenten devotional from Brethren Press ($2.50 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712). The paperback booklet is suitable for individuals and for congregations to provide for their members. It includes a daily scripture verse, meditation, and prayer for the season of Lent through Easter. The Brethren Press devotional series is published twice a year in anticipation of the Advent and Lenten seasons.
- A new Lenten Spiritual Disciplines folder has been posted by Springs of Living Water, an initiative in church renewal that is active in several districts of the Church of the Brethren. Find the resource at www.churchrenewalservant.org/docs/5a-lenten-disciplines.pdf. Titled "Forty Days of Living the Good News: An Invitation to God's Grace and Resurrection Hope," the folder follows the lectionary readings and topics used for the Brethren Press bulletin series for Lent and Easter. Along with suggested Sunday texts and messages there are daily scriptures leading up to the next Sunday, for personal devotions. An insert gives options for next incremental steps in spiritual growth. Also on the Springs website are Bible study questions for each of the daily texts written by Vincent Cable, pastor of Uniontown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. These questions can be used by individuals and groups. For more information contact Joan and David Young at email@example.com.
- The Global Women's Project is offering Lenten Calendars as a way to have a daily time of spiritual centering throughout the season. "This is also an important way for us to share our wealth with our sisters and brothers around the world who are working for empowerment and sustainability," said an announcement. Order a calendar or receive it as a daily e-mail by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.globalwomensproject.org to download the daily donation log that accompanies each day's meditation.
- The National Council of Churches is offering two study and reflection resources for this Lent season: A study guide, "Journey to Lent, Journey to Learn: A Reflection on Public Education in God's World Today," is offered by the Committee on Public Education and Literacy for personal devotion or as the basis for group study; go to www.ncccusa.org/2011lentenguidepubed.pdf. The Eco-Justice office is inviting reflection on the many biblical teachings that call Christians to be good stewards of God's creation and to seek justice for all, through weekly Lenten reflections posted on a blog at http://ecojustice.wordpress.com.
- Bread for the World, a Christian organization doing advocacy to end hunger at home and abroad, is providing daily devotions on its website www.bread.org. The organization also is calling for fasting and prayer for hungry and poor people during the current federal budget process. An invitation from Bread’s president David Beckmann said that he and others are beginning this special emphasis on fasting and prayer today, Ash Wednesday. His announcement also included a Prayer for Congress: "O God, we ask you to guide and bless our senators and representatives in Congress. Give them courage and wisdom to provide for the needs of all people--especially those who struggle to feed themselves and their families. Amen."
- Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Church of the Brethren is a member group, will journey through the Gospel of Matthew considering some of its passages on peace. CMEP is a coalition of churches to promote a just, lasting, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CMEP Lenten study guide offers scripture, reflections, action suggestions, and prayer focused on being peacemakers with the people of the Holy Land. Find it at www.cmep.org/sites/default/files/2011LentFinal.pdf.
- "Water and Just Peace" is the theme of reflections provided by the Ecumenical Water Network and the World Council of Churches. Each Monday starting on March 7, the weekly reflections explore the connection between access to water, struggles over this precious resource, and building just peace. Biblical reflections are posted week by week at www.oikoumene.org/7-weeks-for-water along with complementary links and ideas for activities for individuals and congregations. Worship materials for World Water Day on March 22 and for Maundy Thursday are also available. The importance of access to water was recently affirmed by the Central Committee of the WCC, which issued a statement in February calling for the implementation of the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.