From dust we came, and to dust we will return.
But between those two truths is a whole lot of life to be lived and work to be done.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the season of Lent, a time for reflection on how God’s intentions for the world – and how far our current reality is from that promise. It is a time to reflect on death and to repent for the ways in which we have allowed God’s promise of life to remain hidden from our own eyes and the eyes of our neighbors. Lent is a reminder of our own wanderings in the wilderness, away from our Creator.
Yet, Lent is also a reminder of the road ahead. The ashes are a reminder of mortality; the empty cross that they form on our foreheads is a reminder of the resurrection. We repent for how far we have strayed from God’s plans for us – and how far God has come to find us.
This Lent, ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving draws together the themes of repentance, self-reflection and renewal by focusing on the four spiritual practices, or disciplines, of the season: self-reflection and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving, and works of love.
We are formed in these disciplines to be church – together and for the sake of the world. After a generation in the wilderness, the Hebrews came to the Promised Land as a people consecrated by God to be a “a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). After facing down temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee and declared the “good news” to the people (Luke 4:18). The journey of Lent is not the end of the story, for them or for us.
There is life to be lived and work to be done between the dust from which we came and the dust to which we shall return.
ELCA World Hunger, as a ministry of this church, is shaped by the Lenten disciplines. In repentance, we recognize the ways sin continues to disrupt communities and contribute to hunger and poverty. Through the ancient practices of prayer and fasting, we are renewed in our commitment to “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). By sacrificial giving, we support ministries around the world that give our neighbors a chance at new life and livelihoods. And in works of love, we accompany our neighbors toward a just world where all are fed.
In Lent, we “take hold of the promise” of God’s grace together, knowing that the road does not end at Calvary but at an empty tomb – and the assurance of new life for us, for our neighbors and for all of God’s creation. It is the promise of a world in which all shall be filled, that turns us to the work of ending the hunger that confronts us.
There are resources available at ELCA.org/40Days to help you and your congregation be part of this effort. A Lenten calendar, with verses from scripture, reflections on Lent, and short snippets of stories from projects we support together can be used by individuals and families. Coin jar wrappers can be printed and attached to glass jars or cans to collect gifts this season, and a Lenten devotional study with discussion questions and reflections can be used at home or in small groups. There is also a promotional video that can be shared via e-newsletters or during services.
If you plan to lead your congregation in this effort, there is also a handy leader’s guide with tips on how to get started. A weekly email series is also available.
This Lent, journey with ELCA World Hunger and congregations across this church as we share in the work to which God has called us – and, in the words of Martin Luther, “take hold of the promise” of what is to come.