MEDITATIONS 2021

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LENTENMEDITATIONS2021episcopalrelief.org

Dear Friend in Christ,On Ash Wednesday (February 26) 2020, the world was only justbecoming aware that a new virus was quickly spreading fromcountry to country. With everything that happened during the fortydays of Lent 2020, many of us barely had time to comprehend allthat had changed, let alone mourn all that we had lost.No one in Episcopal Relief & Development’s circle is untouchedby loss during the COVID-19 pandemic—whether it is staff,partners, donors or program participants. Of course, the greatestmeasure of loss is the number of deaths in our communities –here in the US and around the world. Our hearts break for all ofthe people who are no longer with us.There were other losses as well: jobs and livelihoods; theopportunity to travel to visit loved ones; we even lost the abilityto worship together in our church buildings. So much was lost,with little or no time to lament that which was lost.Because of the magnitude of our collective losses, we decided tofocus on lament as the theme for the 2021 Lenten Meditations.In fact, writing openly about lament is difficult. Especially whenso many of us have lost so much. One might ask, “Why should Iappear mournful when others have lost so much as well?”This Lent, we invite you to take some time to lament that whichyou and others have lost.In her essay, “Four Steps of Lament,” Heidi Weaver invites us to: Rest, to take sabbath time to simply be present to ourcurrent situation; Reflect on that which has been lost; Repent for the sufferings and loss we have caused oroverlooked; and make Restitution and be Restored to God and to oneanother.This year for our Lenten Meditations we have invited ten writersto share reflections on each of these four steps of lament. Thesewriters are all leaders in The Episcopal Church and represent adiversity of perspectives, ministries and backgrounds.As a result, we are blessed to have a unique and rich tapestryof viewpoints on the universal experience of lament, loss andnew life. Many of the authors share deeply personal and painfulexperiences related to a variety of issues including disease,violence, racial injustice and poverty. I am profoundly grateful toeach of them for their generosity in sharing their pain and journeyof lament and to Dr. Sandra Montes for editing this edition.I invite you, our readers, to come to these meditations with anopen heart. What you read may challenge you and give rise tounexpected or uncomfortable feelings. We encourage you toengage the “Four Steps of Lament,” by resting, reflecting, repentingand ultimately being restored to God and to one another.Finally our wish for you is that God brings you rest this Lent sothat you may reflect on your own loss and be transformed in theprocess. May God then restore your soul and bring you into thebright new life that is our Easter promise. And may you continueto know that you are loved now and always.Amen.Robert W. RadtkePresident & CEOEpiscopal Relief & Development1

ContributorsWillie Bennett is a Congregational Engagement Officer for theEpiscopal Health Foundation in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.The Right Rev. Phoebe Roaf is Bishop of the Episcopal Dioceseof West Tennessee.The Rev. Isaiah “Shaneequa” Brokenleg is the Staff Officerfor Racial Reconciliation on the Presiding Bishop’s Staff of TheEpiscopal Church.The Right Rev. Prince Singh is Bishop of the Episcopal Dioceseof Rochester.The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry is Presiding Bishop andPrimate of The Episcopal Church.The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton is Canon to the Ordinary ofMinistry in the Episcopal Church in Navajoland.Miguel Angel Escobar is Executive Director of Anglican Studiesat Episcopal Divinity School and a member of the Board ofDirectors of Episcopal Relief & Development.Patricia Martin is a lay pastoral leader in The Episcopal Churchand also serves on the Board of Directors of The Global EpiscopalMission Network (GEMN).Sandy Milien is the project lead for The Episcopal ChurchBeloved Community StorySharing Campaign and Missionerfor Community Engagement and Assistant to the Bishop in theDiocese of Bethlehem.Sandra T. Montes, EdD (Editor, Lenten Meditations 2021), is theauthor of Becoming REAL and Thriving in Ministry.Tamara Plummer is the Program Officer, Asset Recognition, atEpiscopal Relief & Development.Please note: During Lent, each Sunday provides a sabbath fromLenten fasts, and we do not publish meditations on Sundays. Aseach Sunday is a “little Easter,” we invite you to reflect on Christ’slife-giving love on these days.We extend our gratitude to editor Dr. Sandra T. Montes.Permissions:Unless indicated, scripture quotations are taken from the NewRevised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Divisionof Christian Education of the National Council of Churches ofChrist in the USA and used by permission.Psalm passages are from the Psalter in The Book of CommonPrayer.Cover photograph: Mike Smith for Episcopal Relief & Development. 2021 Episcopal Relief & Development. All rights reserved.Printed in partnership with Forward Movement.2

ThursdayFebruary 18RestAsh Wednesday, February 17That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of thepeople, as well as their supervisors, “You shall no longer give thepeople straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gatherstraw for themselves. But you shall require of them the samequantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminishit, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offersacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then theywill labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”—Exodus 5:6-9Rest is the first phase of lament. Until we step back from thedemands of our daily routine to rest and reflect, it is challengingto process difficult events. We struggle to find meaning in themidst of the COVID-19 pandemic a year after it began. Someindividuals had the option of working from home. However, noteveryone was afforded this luxury. Plenty of people traveled towork, including first responders and medical personnel, grocerystore stockers and gas station clerks. The demands placed uponthese essential workers increased during the pandemic. Like theIsraelites who labored as enslaved persons during Pharaoh’sreign, our essential workers had to do more with less. They wererequired to make bricks without straw.What does lament look like when you are too exhausted to rest?How can those who enjoy the privilege of determining our workconditions support our neighbors who have few options? Prayeris certainly part of this equation, and yet our baptismal covenantcalls us to do much more than pray. During Lent, commit to aweekly act of kindness for essential workers in your community.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power ismade perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladlyof my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.—2 Corinthians 12:9Our world was turned upside down when our eight-year-olddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia. The next day we were inthe hospital for treatment.She was scared, and in so much pain, I had to help her use thebedside commode. Afterward, she asked with tears in her eyes,“How am I going to do this?” I was at a loss for words. My mindwas racing, thinking about years of treatment, medications andhospital visits, and filled with overwhelming fear for my daughter.I said a quick prayer, and a song came to my mind. It was theold Patsy Cline country-gospel version of “One Day at a Time.” Ialways made fun of Patsy Cline’s singing but had not thought of itin thirty years. I told my daughter, “We’ll get through this one dayat a time.” That calmed her, and it also calmed me. It seemed toslow things down. “One day at a time” became the theme for heras we all focused on beating the cancer day by day, not gettingahead of ourselves because that would be too much.We found rest and renewal in God’s grace as his grace proved tobe sufficient.—Willie Bennett—Phoebe Roaf3

FridayFebruary 19SaturdayFebruary 20The quest is nurture. It is humility. It is not a test of how strongand brave a person can be, but rather, how vulnerable she or hecan be.—Steven CharlestonThe Four Vision Quests of JesusResting can mean a time of relaxing or a time of quiet formetamorphosis, quiet to hear the still small voice of God, quietto allow the Holy Spirit in, quiet to allow for transformation. Inmy Lakota culture and others, when we need guidance, rightrelationship and to lament, we Hanbleciya (cry for a vision).Traditionally, we would go “sit on the hill” by ourselves, fastingand praying. It is a time for reflection, vulnerability and finding ourway back into right-relationship with the Creator, with creationand with ourselves.In the past year, we have all experienced grief, loss and pain. Weare left questioning many things. For some, that has includedour faith and our God. Yet sometimes in our deepest sorrow,in what we think is our lowest point, in that messy, ugly-cryingspace, the Holy Spirit can transform us. This is the time to cryfor a vision. This is the time to fast, pray and find our way backinto right-relationship. This is the time to listen for God and betransformed.I find rest in God.—Paraphrase of Psalm 62:1When I was a teacher, I used to tell everyone that Saturday wasmy day to sleep late. Every other day, I had to wake up before 7a.m. So, on Saturdays, I would make sure my room was superdark, and my son knew not to wake me up unless there was anemergency.I wish I could still do that. I wish I could go into my room, makeeverything dark, turn everything off and rest. But, probably likemany of you, I can’t. Not now. Not during the pandemic. Not withthe weight of survival on my back. Not with video after video ofmy murdered siblings. Not with my brown son driving withoutme. Not with yet another trailblazer passing on.These days, as the whole country seems dark with killings,continuing deaths from the pandemic and never-ending racialinjustice and fear, I do believe there is a spark waiting to get myfire going. I do believe that spark is God. And, I do believe Godcontinues to help me rest even when my whole body is on alert.—Sandra T. MontesIt is difficult to hear God when I’m too busy to pray or think. If mymind is occupied with Facebook or Twitter and my heart withfear or anxiety, where is the room for God’s love, messages andgifts to fit? Your prayer space need not be a church or a quietplace. I often feel God’s presence and voice while listening tomusic or going for a walk. While God can speak to us anywhere,think about creating time and space to hear her.—Isaiah “Shaneequa” BrokenlegRest4

SundayFebruary 21MondayFebruary 22They stood still, looking sad.O God of grace and glory,we remember before you this day allthose who have died in the past year.We thank you for giving them to us,their family and friends, to knowand to love as companions on ourearthly pilgrimage. In your boundlesscompassion, console us who mourn.Give us faith to see in death the gate ofeternal life, so that in quiet confidencewe may continue our course on earth,until, by your call, we are reunited withthose who have gone before; throughJesus Christ our Lord. Amen.—The Book of Common Prayer, p. 493—Luke 24:17bGrowing up in South India, I noticed how hard some communitiesworked and how invisible they still were. One such was a subsetof the Dalits—formerly known as “untouchables”—often referredto as Safai Karmachari, a community of manual scavengers.They cleaned latrines in cities and rural communities. For mydoctoral research, I interviewed Ramakka on August 9, 2002.She was fifty-two and had been a manual scavenger since shewas fifteen. It was disgusting work—cleaning other people’sexcreta, collecting them in baskets and carrying these loads onher head—work she had done since her childhood days.I used to think that rest was about the restoration of lost strength.For millions of people around the world, like Ramakka, rest is arestoration of lost dignity. That realization is their rest, their pauseand their inner hope. Luke tells us of the two disciples on theroad to Emmaus, troubled by the execution of Jesus. They stoodstill, looking sad when the risen Christ intervened. They pausedto assess their sorrow and were clearly irritated by the stranger.Yet this story reminds us that a curious stranger noticing andasking a question can help to initiate rest amid the normalizedmalaise of dehumanization.During the pandemic’s imposed pause on our lives, we noticed afew things: that the coronavirus impacts Latino, Black and Nativecommunities disproportionately; that we have treated AfricanAmericans as less than human; and that the earth rested. Out ofour rest, stillness and lament, will we rise as a gentler and morejust humankind?—Prince SinghRest5

TuesdayFebruary 23WednesdayFebruary 24And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.—Mark 6:32Taking pause in our spiritual journey is life-giving. Jesusunderstands this need for a pause in our lives to move us intoa time of rest and meditation. Jesus shows us in Matthew howwe may reflect, pray and draw strength from the One who is allknowing and all-powerful in the way of the cross. Jesus goesto God for divine strength in his sacred heart, that special quietplace where he and God meet intimately. Jesus, in his knowing,takes his disciples to a deserted place by themselves to rest fora little while, where God might enter through their powerlessnessand renew them with God’s strength.My experience of rest has been in the outdoors, listening amongthe trees, plants and waters. I seek strength from God in thesemoments of rest. I experience my powerlessness. I am shownhumility. When our bodies are exhausted from the stresses oflife’s terms, the Divine Spirit reminds us that we, too, need totake pause in our spiritual journey to divert to a lonely place andrest. Jesus is eternally present, ready to hear and listen to oursacred hearts comforted by words of harmony, Hozhó—Peace bewith you.—Cornelia EatonNow when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat toa deserted place by himself.—Matthew 14:13aIn late summer, my husband and I went hiking in Harriman StatePark in New York. It was a brief escape from New York City aftermany months of being trapped in our one-bedroom apartmentas a result of COVID-19. Within ten minutes of walking in thewoods, my cell phone service went out, and I suddenly realized Iwas more disconnected from the outside world than I had beenin months. No more texts; no more news alerts; no more emails.For a full hour, it was just footsteps in the woods until we arrivedat a clear blue lake.When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s violent and unjust deathat the hands of Herod, his response was to withdraw in a boat toa deserted place by himself. I find comfort in the fact that evenJesus had to step away to take in the full scope of John’s tragicdeath and all that it might mean.On that lakeside, sitting in the shade of a tall pine tree, I thoughtabout the violence and tragedy that we had briefly left behind:the morgue trucks outside the hospitals; the sudden increasein desperation and homelessness in our neighborhood; andmurderous police brutality. It was a moment of holy respite thatallowed us to return and recommit to building a more just future.—Miguel Angel EscobarRest6

ThursdayFebruary 25For God alone my soul in silence waits;from him comes my salvation.FridayFebruary 26—Psalm 62:1You will not let my eyelids close;I am troubled and I cannot speak.—Psalm 77:4When I was a little girl, there were very few moments of silencearound me. In our Dominican and Haitian household, space wasalways filled with loud conversations, church services, colorfulmusic and the sounds of moto-taxis passing by. Now fastforward to 2021: silence, unrest and uncertainty surround me.So, I cry out; I cry out to the Lord in despair, pleading that neitherthe silent pandemic nor the loud and unjustified hatred towardsmy people ends up hurting or taking away those I love the most.Nothing may be one of the best things you can do. One day everyweek. Do nothing.—greensabbathproject.netYet, during these trying times, I find myself needing to use thatsame silence to recharge, to pause and to actively figure out thebest way to heal from all this hurt and uncertainty. And althoughit’s challenging to live with the fear of loss, I faithfully wait forGod’s promise of salvation, but I no longer wait alone. I’ve founda community of loving, resilient and dedicated people who haveshown me that united in bonds of love, we will continue to walkforward together.Throughout this harrowing pandemic, my colleagues and I ledvirtual trainings about maintaining personal resilience in a time ofdisaster. Often these trainings come at the invitation of a bishopwho is trying to get staff and clergy to rest. In the training, we talkabout the consequences of not resting; we can lose our minds,our faith or even our lives. While the option to rest is a privilege, ifwe give this one up, there can be serious consequences.—Sandy MilienIn a class on practicing a green sabbath (a sabbath that reducesour carbon emissions), my classmate pondered, “How can I takerest when there are those who cannot?” I pondered in return,“How can we not take rest? We need the energy for others.” Weagreed with each other: we cannot take our rest for granted.This past summer I had a lot of guilt about not going into thestreets to protest racial injustice. But the truth is I am tired. I amweary because of the compounding harm of multiple traumasfrom pandemic to racial injustice. Therefore, I had to prioritizemy health. So, I got into a car with my good friend for a day tripto my spiritual home, Nelson Pond in New Hampshire. As I saton the familiar rock, breathing fresh air, the rejuvenating spirit ofGod blessed me. I looked around and reconnected with God’screation, and indeed, it is very good.In what way are you able to rejuvenate your spirit today?—Tamara PlummerRest7

SaturdayFebruary 27I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep;for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.SundayFebruary 28—Psalm 4:8It may seem out of place to be talking about rest. We live introubled and hurried times. Everyone has been forced to changetheir routine. The number of people suffering from sleep disordersand insomnia is on the rise; others can sleep, but their minds findno rest. Yet resting is vital for our physical, mental and spiritualhealth. Spiritual health requires spending quality time restingand meditating.Let’s go back to the ninth century bce. In the midst of a crisis, KingDavid expressed his total trust in God. At the time, he felt unjustlypersecuted and slandered, so he cried out with hope that Godwould intervene. In response, he received peace “that surpassesall understanding.” This made him forget his life’s tragedies. Heslept in divine calm—a peace that no commotion could interrupt.Today I’m inviting you to offer your thoughts to God and to rest inGod so that you may receive that same peace in your body, mindand spirit. “For only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” All thosewho put their faith and hope in God will dwell in safety!Eternal God,in whose perfect kingdomno sword is drawnbut the sword of righteousness,no strength knownbut the strength of love:So mightily spread abroad your Spirit,that all peoples may be gatheredunder the banner of the Prince of Peace,as children of one Father;to whom be dominion and glory,now and for ever. Amen.—The Book of Common Prayer, p. 815—Patricia MartinRest8

RememberMonday, March 1When they heard these things, they became enraged and groundtheir teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazedinto heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at theright hand of God.But they covered their ears, and with a loudshout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged himout of the city and began to st

February 21 Monday February 22 They stood still, looking sad. —Luke 24:17b Growing up in South India, I noticed how hard some communities worked and how invisible they still were. One such was a subset of the Dalits—formerly known as “untouchables”—often referred to as Safai Karmachari, a community of manual scavengers. —

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