It’s March already, and we shift our focus to justice and reconciliation. It truly is the perfect theme for a month like this when we enter fully into the Lenten season and feel a little bit of spring coming along.
As a reminder, Lent is a Christian season of preparing, fasting and praying for about 40 days from Ash Wednesday up until Easter Sunday. It is meant to coincide with the 40 days that Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert before he fully launched his ministry.
For Christians, we are meant to somehow mimic that 40 days by doing something to draw us closer to God.
Some of us take away things from our lives like coffee or television, and some add things like daily prayer and meditation. These are all meant to draw us closer to God and to each other.
When I think of reconciliation, my mind often takes me to the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob robbed Esau of both his birthright and blessing by using trickery to secure them. Esau became very angry and was about to kill Jacob. As a result, Jacob fled far away for his own safety.
After many many years, Jacob wanted to return home. But he was still afraid of his brother Esau. To make a long story short, when Jacob finally came face to face with his estranged brother, he figured he might die. But instead Esau embraced him as a brother and forgave him. These brothers reconciled against all odds.
Many of the people we meet on a daily basis are alienated from someone they love.
Sometimes it seems impossible for reconciliation to ever happen. But often we recognize that reconciliation with family and/or friends is the most important thing that could happen in a person’s life. So we slowly, cautiously, proceed even though it might seem impossible. While doing that, we recognize that God is bigger than any form of alienation and brokenness.
So as a result we pray.
We pray for justice.
We pray for reconciliation.
We pray for faith.
We pray for strength to continue in the ministry that God has given us.
And every so often, we see those glimpses of grace. We recognize that God is very much in the middle of it all. Sometimes we even get to witness a miracle of justice and reconciliation along the way.
That’s what keeps us going.
During this Lenten season, when the days lengthen (yes ‘Lenten’ and ‘lengthen’ are related) and we see the new life of spring bursting forth, we remember that all things are possible; even in winter when everything can seem bleak and dead.
And while we keep our eyes open for chances to bring justice and reconciliation to the world, we will continue to be the hand of God in the heart of the city.
Lord, you give us the unwavering call to do justice.
You tell us to defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow.
To love the foreigner residing among us.
To provide for the hungry, thirsty, and naked.
To love our enemy.
But Lord, it is overwhelming.
Do you not know that we are only human?
May your Spirit fill us with hope.
Remind us that we are good enough for you,
so that in all things, we will follow your will,
and take up the call to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you.
—Erica VanEssendelft, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church