By Jennifer Reyes Lay, CTA 20/30 and Anti-Racism Team Leader
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”
God of life and death, love and transformation, you remind us through the wisdom of a simple grain of wheat that from death comes new life. During this Lenten journey we have been praying and reflecting with you on the ways we are called to die to that which keeps us from fully being in loving relationship with you, with ourselves, and with all your good and holy creation. As we near the end of this season we pray for the courage to embrace the transformation you seek to realize in our lives and the life of your church. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, help us to know you and be born into new life with you and one another as we seek to incarnate your love and build up your beloved community. All this we pray in the name of Jesus – our healer, teacher, and savior. Amen
This is the final Sunday before Palm/Passion Sunday and Holy Week. We are nearing the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and approaching his death. In the Gospel reading this week we hear Jesus alerting his disciples to this pending reality and challenging them to reflect on what it means for their own lives and ministries. Jesus tells them that “whoever serves me must follow me,” and that in order to have a life that bears much fruit, we too must be willing to experience death. I don’t believe that Jesus is saying here that in order to be true followers we all must literally be willing to die and become martyrs, although some have. Rather, there’s another type of death I hear us being called to in order to have new life. This death consists of examining: what are the parts of my life, my identity, my thoughts and actions that are actually preventing me from knowing God and knowing myself as God’s beloved (as Jeremiah reminds us in the first reading), and from fully following Jesus in his ministry of healing and building inclusive, loving communities?
Racism is one structure that is pervasive in our society today and has impacted all of God’s beloved people, making them forget who they are and who they are called to be. Racism shows up in different ways in different people’s lives, but we are all called to do our part to name the evil it is and actively work to heal ourselves and our communities from its harmful impact. I hear Jesus in our Gospel reading inviting us to give up the lives that we currently know, which have been steeped in racist messaging and conditioning, in order to experience a new life in God and Christ. This way of dying can feel just as scary because we are leaving behind what is known and familiar and are being asked to step into something new and mysterious. I would encourage us to pray for a courageous faith that gives us the strength to embrace these deaths with grace, knowing that God is with us and accompanying us as we seek to live deeper into our calling as followers of Christ.
- Before Lent ends, is there something you are being invited to let die in your life so that you can experience a new fullness of life?
- What does it look like for you to serve and follow Jesus while working to dismantle structural racism?
One of the themes for the 2018 CTA National Conference is Sanctuary. Here is St. Louis I am grateful for the prophetic witness of Rev. Rebecca Turner and Christ Church UCC who have opened up their church as sanctuary for Alex Garcia, a husband and father of 5 from Honduras, who is facing deportation. Learn more and help support this holy work of providing sanctuary.
Jennifer Reyes Lay has been a member of the CTA Anti-Racism Team since 2014, and cares deeply about the intersection of religion and racism. She is grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a second year seminary student at Eden Theological Seminary, and also works as the Administrator for the Office of Presiding Bishop for the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.