Lent Devotions: Sustaining strength for the struggle


Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Rev. Scott Clark

Hebrews 12:1-3

Hebrews 11 lays before us the broad sweep of the movement and struggle of our ancestors in faith across the expanse of scripture:  By faith, Abraham and Sarah set out for a land only promised, not knowing where they are going.  By faith, Moses and the people endure slavery, oppose Pharaoh, and flee boldly toward freedom.  By faith, Rahab resists and persists. And the writer says there is not time enough to tell it all.  To tell of Ruth and Naomi, refugees bereft of family and all they knew; of David, hunted by Saul; of a people taken into exile and then finding their way home again; of Jesus; of Mary; of a woman, bleeding and still persisting through the crowd toward healing.  There is not time enough.  From beginning to end, scripture is the story of people on the move through the struggle of life.

And through it all, God persists too – with this people on the move – in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; in the words of the prophets; in the songs of the people; in a still small voice; in Christ.  And so the writer of Hebrews can say this:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off the brokenness and oppression which so easily entangle, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us – fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Our time, too, is a time of struggle.  In our common life, many feel a renewed sense of call to speak up and work for the well-being of the vulnerable in our midst – for refugees, and for immigrants, and for workers, and for families of every race, configuration, and creed, and for the full dignity and the full humanity of all people.  Many hear a call to work for justice – for an end to racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and all the forces that tear us apart.  And we sense that we are in this struggle for the long haul.  But we find ourselves in a struggle not only through the big issues of our day, but also in the everyday struggle that comes with life – the struggle of raising and nurturing a family, of illness, of grieving the loss of someone we love, of finding work with meaning, of mending broken relationships.  All that, too.

Lent offers us the opportunity to help each other find sustaining strength for the struggle.  During the season of Lent, we are on the move with Jesus – as Jesus journeys through the whole of life, through illness and healing, through the learning and wisdom that come through lived-out life, through oppression and liberation, through the companionship of community, and through the cross on toward resurrection.  Through struggle, into new life.  We hope that these Lenten devotions will offer help.  A word of scripture.  A story.  A spiritual practice.  A prayer.  A word that is true and healing.

The writer of Hebrews says, remember these ancestors and look around for each other. Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, such a family of faith, let’s get moving, fixing our eyes on Jesus, sustaining our strength – together – through the struggle.

Rev. Scott Clark is chaplain and associate dean of students at the San Francisco Theological Seminary

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