Re-focusing for Lent

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From the very beginning of God’s walk with his people, the blessings they enjoyed because of their relationship with God were meant to overflow. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” God promised Abraham.

Law after law given to the Israelites were meant for the good of their neighbors—in a time when inclusion was based on bloodlines and ethnicity (not so different from today), God’s people were to be marked by care for the stranger among them.  

When the Church forgets that we exist for the sake of God’s never-ending reaching out, we forget who we are. When the Church focuses on retaining cultural power, we forget who we are. Lent is a corrective, a refocusing through prayer and disciplines on Christ and his upside-down Kingdom call on our lives. This Lent, we challenge you to engage thoughtfully and prayerfully in advocacy for your neighbors, particularly neighbors who are living in poverty because of various unjust systems.

We invite you to focus on one issue, perhaps one from the list below or another that God has put on your heart, and commit to learning and advocating about it.

This challenge is based on the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Justice and Hope Sunday bulletin insert, which you can view and order here.

Take the Lent Advocacy Challenge:

WEEK 1: Learn about a justice or reconciliation issue that concerns you, and read about it from several sources (you could start at our sites). Be sure to read at least one opinion that is different from your own.

WEEK 2: Write a social media post about how the issue you’ve chosen affects people who are made in the image of God. Interact with people who comment on the post or (even better) have a face-to-face conversation with someone about the issue.

WEEK 3: Ask your church to pray about the issue during Lent. You can find resources to support you on the Centre for Public Dialogue or Office of Social Justice’s websites.

WEEK 4: Write an email or a letter to the appropriate elected representative (whether municipal, provincial/state-level, or federal). Even better, call their office! Phone calls are often more effective than letters. 

WEEK 5: Invite a few friends to join you in advocating by sending a letter or email to them.

WEEK 6: Set up an appointment to meet with your elected representative about the issue—you can do it!

Not sure what to focus on? Start here:

Climate Change

Every single human being, whether living in downtown Manhattan or in rural Bangladesh, depends on creation to survive. This is especially true for the billions of people around the world who depend on the earth for their immediate well-being—subsistence farmers, small-scale herders and ranchers, and millions who fish local reefs and fisheries both to feed their families and to send their catch to market. These are people for whom a healthy creation is most desperately and immediately important, and these people are hurt first and most deeply in a creation that is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth.”

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:

Abortion

Women are more likely than men to live in poverty all over the world, and also in the U.S. and Canada. An unborn child is profoundly impacted when its mother is unable to access health care, nutritious food, a fair wage, or a safe place to live. A critical way to support life is to support women who live in poverty.

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:

Immigration (U.S.)

Poverty is a major root cause of migration—many people feel they have no other options but to flee their country to seek safety and better opportunities for their families. For someone living in poverty, it is almost impossible to legally immigrate to the U.S. This reality leaves them with two impossible choices: remain in poverty or live without papers in another country.   

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:  

Indigenous Justice (Canada)

Indigenous people in Canada have been forcibly disconnected from the lands that once sustained them through colonial policies like residential schools and the modern foster care system. The Canadian government also underfunds social services for Indigenous people, such as education, healthcare, housing, and child welfare. This inequitable funding means fewer Indigenous highschool graduates, more Indigenous children in foster care, poorer health outcomes for Indigenous people, and more.

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:

Religious Persecution

The suffering of religious minorities around the world takes many forms—the denial of building permits, food insecurity, restrictions of movement, and even kidnappings. Whether the Rohingya in Myanmar or Palestinian Christians in the Occupied Territories, we are called to remember those who are suffering in our prayers, to give resources to assist them, and to advocate on their behalves with our government.

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:

  • Support the work that World Renew is doing to assist the Rohingya.
  • Pray for those suffering because they are a religious minority. Sign up to receive email updates from an organization that does not demonize the oppressors, but encourages prayer for them.
  • Advocate for Palestinian children who are routinely the recipients of human rights abuses like military detention (through our partner, Churches for Middle East Peace).

Refugees

Refugees are some of the most vulnerable members of our societies; in Canada, for example, a 2016 report on poverty shows that 34% of new immigrants and refugees live in poverty. Did you know that social connections with people from host communities are key to refugees’ flourishing in their new home? You and your church can play a key role in advocating for welcome and helping refugees to adapt and put down roots.

Some resources to help you turn love for your neighbors into action:

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