Lent is around the corner, and I am considering how to spend my forty days. There is a tradition of giving up something during Lent and marking the time by abstaining from indulgences, like sweets or meat. Then there is another newer tradition of taking on a new discipline like journaling or an attitude change to mark the six weeks. The questions remains: how do we mark the penitent time of Jesus venturing to the cross? Do I give up my favorite treat? Do I take to heart, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?
ELCA World Hunger invites congregations to participate in “40 Days of Giving” and spend this penitent season with a focus on generosity. When your congregation registers to participate they can choose to get a daily devotion sent to their email created by thought-leaders throughout the church. There are also six weekly sessions that accompany the devotions that dive deeper into the themes of Lent that are perfect for adult study.
Bethany Lutheran Church in Colorado has taken a familial approach to Lent with an intergenerational devotional. This congregation places hunger relief at the top of their outreach ministry, so when they were asked to participate in the ELCA World Hunger “40 Days of Giving” challenge they answered with a resounding YES! Alongside the resources offered by ELCA World Hunger Bethany created a supplemental household devotion that brings families together to read scripture and discuss reflection questions throughout the six weeks of Lent.
The devotional walks the participants through Lent with reflection questions, Bible verses, prayers, blessings, and service opportunities. There are four aspects to this devotional and each provide a different emphasis: “Faith + Connect” is about connecting the scripture to daily life, “Faith + Serve” provides an opportunity of service, “Faith + Pray” presents a prayer for the week, and “Faith + Bless” offers a blessing for the week. Each aspect of the devotional is grounded in the scripture that guides the congregation through Jesus’ journey to the cross. The “Faith + Connect” section lifts up a couple of the readings from the previous Sunday to focus their attention on a few verses each day. The structure is easy to follow with reflection questions and small activities each week.
In the first week, the household is given a central theme for the six weeks of Lent: generosity. The participants are asked to consider generosity in terms of their relationships with others and with God. “Where did you experience generosity today? How did you offer generosity today? Where did you see God’s generosity?” We do not usually think about generosity during a season of restraint, but it provides the opportunity to consider Lent in a new light. Bethany has embraced the idea behind ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving by asking the question: what does it mean to be generous?
This central idea of generosity is the undercurrent of this devotional, but the foundation is centered on faith. Connecting faith to our reality is the daily reflection and Bible passage, but faith also grounds the weekly service in “Faith + Serve”. Faith is undoubtedly the basis for the weekly blessing and prayer in “Faith + Bless” and “Faith + Pray”. Yet placing the word “faith” before each of these components is a constant reminder that faith encompasses all of these aspects. Each person has a different faith journey and awakens their faith through different practices.
Bethany is providing a way to explore faith intentionally with our households throughout a season that can become very individualistic. We find what we each want to give up and go through Lent relying on God and willpower. Yet many churches like Bethany are finding ways to create community during this somber time alongside ELCA World Hunger.
The “40 Days of Giving” challenge provides the opportunity to participate in a community effort to end hunger. We know that 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry, and that it seems as though hunger is an insurmountable evil to overcome, but the resurrection teaches us that nothing, not even death, gets the final word. Lent provides us time to consider Christ’s journey to the cross and meditate upon on our mortality as we begin this season with ashes on our forehead. Yet we continue to see the resurrection and the shining light of resurrection throughout this season, so we know that hunger, despair, and even death, do not have the final word.
If you would like to participate in ELCA World Hunger’s “40 Days of Giving” challenge visit elca.org/40days to sign up. Due to popularity the flip calendar devotional are no longer available, we encourage you to sign up for the daily e-version of the devotional and downloadable version is available upon request by emailing ELCA World Hunger at email@example.com. If you would like the Bethany Lutheran Church’s household devotional, follow this link to download a copy.