This Lenten journey is unlike any other in our lifetime. A year ago, our leaders encouraged us to shelter in place for two weeks. Many of us acquiesced, albeit reluctantly, hoping that we would be back to normal in a few days. We could see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Little did we know, the light was actually a train—a pandemic train that ran us over.

Now, in the aftermath of 2020, we find ourselves in varying locations on a bizarre continuum ranging from constant inconvenience to chronic isolation, from economic devastation to the death of a loved one, and from lingering depression to complete mental health collapse.

I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We continue to grow even though our circumstances are less than ideal. And even though we are brokenhearted, we hold on to hope.

This rocky hope reminds me of a flower pushing through a crack in a sidewalk. That flower should be the poster child for 2021.

This rocky hope reminds me of a flower pushing through a crack in a sidewalk.

Siblings in Christ, our Lenten journey will take us over tough terrain filled with potholes and pitfalls. We will need to navigate pandemic fatigue, political divisions, financial hardship, injustice and grief. Our nation is hurting and there is no better time to be the body of Christ. We are faced with challenges and choices. As we continue to trek across rocky ground, we can choose justice, equity and accountability.

While this may seem like a daunting task, we can each find faithful ways to live out our baptismal calling. Paul encourages us: “Do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Trekking over rocky ground is much more exhausting than walking a smooth, familiar path. The journey will make us weary, and hope is a desperate commodity. In the immortal words of writer James Weldon Johnson:

 Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died; yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our parents sighed? (“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship 841).

Our nation is hurting and there is no better time to be the body of Christ.

Try to find meaningful ways to encourage one another on this rocky Lenten journey so that, even when we find ourselves drowning in ambiguity, we can trust in our distant hallelujah hope.

The reign of God is near and we have hope, and this hope does not disappoint. Although the past months have challenged our faith, we can take comfort that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

And even if things get worse, God’s promises are true. So we can be gracious with ourselves and one another as we struggle to release the nostalgia and belief that our lives will return to normal. Just as Martin Luther remained faithful during the bubonic plague—the pandemic of his day—we have the spiritual inheritance to do likewise today.

Walking this rocky road with Jesus, through pain and promise, brings us to a deeper understanding of Easter. Siblings in Christ, I am hopeful there is light at the end of the tunnel and that this time it’s not a train. I’m hopeful that this time, as we strain ahead, we see the shimmer of Easter morning off in the distance. On our Lenten journey, all roads—even the rockiest terrain—lead to Easter.

Angela T. !Khabeb
Angela T. !Khabeb is an ELCA pastor living in Minneapolis. She enjoys an active home life with her husband and three children. 

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