Lenten Devotional by Rev. Katie Owen (T’06)

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,

Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

-“The Summons”

The sun scorched down upon the dry earth as we walked through the desert on a Tuesday morning with intentionality in our step.  Walking carelessly through the Mexican desert was a surefire way to end up ensnared in a bramble bush or laden with cactus thorns, but our intention wasn’t simply about avoiding those impediments in the path.  We walked with intentionality in our step and compassion in our hearts because we were walking a road of suffering and death that Mexican migrants walked daily.  We walked during the day with multiple BPA-free water bottles full of filtered water on a path that many migrants ran in the dark of night with just the clothes on their back.

desertAs I walked, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus on this final Holy week in the Lenten journey.  Jesus ate a simple final meal with his closest friends, as I imagine most migrants do with their families before preparing for a road to the border that they know may bring death even as they long for the ability to experience new life for themselves and their loved ones.  Jesus wore the crown of thorns—thorns that I was avoiding through careful steps—on his head for all to see.  Jesus bore the heavy cross and the sin of the world on his back; I walked upright carrying only the burdens of injustice that I bear by participating in broken political systems as an American.  Jesus thirsted and his only reprieve was sour wine; I enjoyed the splash of cool fresh water on my parched lips as we walked.  Jesus died in the hot sun at midday high atop a hilltop and high atop a cross, offering forgiveness and welcome into his kingdom even as he breathed his last and died at the hands of an unjust political system and a fearful religious community.  I walked to the foot of the steel, 30-foot fence at the border and looked up, wishing I could bear a word of welcome to sojourners longing to enter a country of hope and promise but aware that the fence communicated something else entirely.

The Duke Presbyterian-Lutheran mission team journeyed through the desert and we all journey through Lent as Christians aware that our walk is only a glimpse of the walk that Jesus took on our behalf.  We journey through Lent looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who has paved the road of life and hope for us through his death.  We arrive at Good Friday and stand at the foot of the cross, or in the shadow of a towering border fence, aware that there are injustices still in our world.  We long for the kingdom of God to be made real and true not just in heaven but among us as well, and we pray “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

The evening after we walked in the Mexican desert, we crossed through US Customs, aware of our privilege, to attend a border vigil for all the individuals who had died in vigilCochise county, Arizona as a result of immigration.  We read names and laid white wooden crosses along the side of the road to remember.  We remember their desire for new life that was unrealized.  We remember the injustices that persist.  We remember the lives of individuals we didn’t know but who were special to God.  I placed a cross in the road labeled “no identificado” and wondered if I was holding the cross of Christ in that moment.  Many of us were uncomfortable because bearing public witness to injustice is a risk and it unearths all the complexities of a system of power and privilege that we would often prefer to ignore.  Yet, as I walked the vigil road that evening with my feet still bearing dust from the desert, I imagined what kind of disciple I was—was I part of the crowd who yelled “crucify him”? Judas who betrayed him?  Peter who denied Jesus for fear of the systems in place? the women who wept at the feet of Jesus as he breathed his last?  And I prayed.

Holy Christ, You walked this earth to show us the way, died on a cross for us, and reign still today promising hope and new life.  Help me to be a witness.  Help me to point to the injustices in our world and to be a part of bringing about your kingdom on this earth.  Help me to recognize my brokenness.  Forgive me and summon in me the desire not to remain at the foot of the cross but to run toward the empty tomb and proclaim your resurrection with renewed hope this year.  Amen.

May you bear witness this weekend to the life, death, and resurrection of our risen Lord until he comes again.

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