With the season of Lent beginning on February 17 with Ash Wednesday, Chalice Press invited pastor and scholar Mary Alice Mulligan to answer a few questions about the intent of the Lenten season and her new devotional, Go to Jerusalem.
Why should congregations and individuals use a Lent devotional?
Every minister should want to encourage spiritual growth and connection with God in the congregation. A time of private devotion has traditionally been a way for a person of faith to draw closer to God. When a congregation shares a devotional, with suggested scripture and reflection, individuals may proceed at their own pace, at the same time they know others in the congregation are focusing on the same readings. It can encourage personal spiritual growth and a collective spiritual maturity within the congregation.
What inspired your new Lent devotional, Go to Jerusalem?
While I appreciate straight biblical scholarship, I want a devotional to do more than teach me something about a passage of scripture. A devotional should help me do something as I use it each day. I want to sense myself drawing closer to God as I move through the season. I want to go somewhere with my faith.
As I sketched out some of my first ideas for this Lenten devotional, I thought of how Lent could be a journey, and how we want to learn, grow, and change on any journey. If Lent is a journey, when Easter comes we should be someplace new.
The title, Go to Jerusalem, conveys movement and action. How do you see Christians engaging Lent this year in an active way?
Even in the midst of Covid restrictions, many of us feel the rush of life. Too many tasks demand attention. Often attention to Jesus Christ can get put on a proverbial back burner. Taking time to focus on what is going on in our relationship with God can be an intentional act, if we have some help.
I am eager for people to see the Lenten devotional as a prompt each day to consider what is going on in their faith life. The suggestion to use a journal makes the prompt a bit firmer. My hope is that actively engaging some of the ideas will assist readers to think and pray and prepare to experience something new. I want to be someplace new in my faith when Easter comes, so I encourage others to be open to sharing the journey.
In the introduction, you invite us “to take the hand of Jesus for this journey.” What does it mean to really walk hand in hand with Jesus during Lent … and as Resurrection people in general?
The metaphor of taking the hand of Jesus is an invitation to make a conscious choice to consider the presence of Jesus with us as we read and pray and think about the daily entries. I am eager for participants to imagine Jesus as a partner on the journey, not guiding us on the road of 2,000 years ago, but as guide for our daily life now. I am hopeful the reflections and daily questions will stimulate new ideas, perhaps move people into fresh places.
During this time of ongoing Covid restrictions, sensing the presence of Jesus with us might give us more confidence as we consider, for instance, a new way to reach out to someone who needs a word of hope. Recognizing that even Jesus was stretched in his understanding of the world and God’s will should make it easier for us to allow God to stretch us.