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February 12, 2016, 12:00 AM

Seven Ideas for "Doing Justice" this Lent

As we begin the season of Lent, Christian congregations around the world often include a corporate confession that addresses many of the ways we have fallen short of God’s intention for how we should live in relation to each other and all of creation.  At Holy Spirit in particular, we used the confession from Evangelical Lutheran Worship for Ash Wednesday, which I find helpful because it does not say something simple like, “I haven’t loved God or my neighbor as I should.”  Instead, it invites us through the use of multiple petitions to consider ways in which we are explicitly or implicitly complicit in communal sins.  Together, we confess petitions such as:

  • We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit….
  • Our past unfaithfulness, the pride, envy, hypocrisy, and apathy that have infected our lives ….
  • Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people….
  • Our neglect of human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty ….
  • Our false judgments, our uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us ….
  • Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us….  (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pew edition pg. 253)

That is far from an exhaustive list, but one common thread I see in all of them is the theme of injustice—injustice toward God, creation, other people—even injustice toward our own bodies.  So if Lent is about returning to the Lord (Joel 2:13b) and doing what God asks of us, which Micah 6:8b says is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” what if each of us committed to live more justly in the year ahead as a Lenten discipline?

I realize this is easy to say, and often hard to do. When it comes to injustice, it seems like it is all around us, and often little that we can do in response to it.  But there is!  Here are a few things you might consider if you want to be more proactive in “doing justice” this Lent—pick one or more to try:

  1. Commit to participating in 1 local justice concern. The Flint water crisis comes to mind, but it is not the only local justice concern in our area.  Spend some time volunteering at Salem Lutheran handing out water, or time at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan packaging food for distribution to those in need.  The eradication of injustice around us begins by being agents of mercy in the communities in which we live.
  2. Commit to learning about 1 global justice concern. While some may prefer to engage our local community, that doesn’t mean we can forget about issues in the rest of the world.  Pick an international issue such as the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis in Europe, human trafficking or another of your choosing to learn more about and then pray regularly for that situation.  If you are looking for ideas, check out:  
  3. Get to work in the dirt. Most of the world's population is still regularly engaged in manual labor. They produce the food and products that we buy at the store. So, as an act of solidarity with them, remember to do some physical work. It could be something simple like growing some of your own vegetables or making something for your home—plus it’s good exercise!
  4. If you can’t work in the dirt, remember to support those who do through fair trade and environmentally friendly products.  We provide fair trade products through Serrv’s ( “Divine Chocolate” and Lutheran World Relief’s “Equal Exchange” program ( at Holy Spirit.  However, there are many other fair trade and “eco friendly” products on the market, which are sold at a variety of stores.  If you have the option, consider buying these products.  It supports small businesses and helps lift hard working artisans, farmers and their families out of extreme poverty.
  5. Invite an “outsider” to an event you are hosting.  Maybe it is something small—like inviting someone in your neighborhood over for dinner, or to a family celebration such as Easter or Thanksgiving dinner). How is this doing justice, you might wonder?  Well, it builds community, and helps us show care and concern for those on the margins of our own lives.  Plus, Jesus told us to do this in Luke 14:12-14a, He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed…” (NRSV).
  6. Read one (or more) of the Prophets from the Old Testament. You know—the Old Testament books that we often gloss over, or pick the parts out of that only pertain to Jesus.  You’ve got Isaiah through Malachi to choose from, so pick one, read that book and reflect on how that prophet addressed the injustice or poverty or lack of mercy in his day. Then reflect on how his words pertain to your own life.
  7. Sponsor, support or encourage a child (that is not your own).   As the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus famously said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37 NRSV).  Last fall, Peder Eide invited members of Holy Spirit to sponsor a child through Compassion International (  You might consider sponsoring one through them, or a similar group.  Or you could volunteer as a Big Brother/Big Sister, as a tutor/reader at a local school or as a Sunday School teacher!  If that seems like too much of a commitment, invite a family you know from church to go with you to a sporting event, concert, play or another event that interests you.

These are just a few ideas for you to consider as we begin this Lenten season (my thanks to author Craig Greenfield for inspiring some of these ideas above).  If you have another idea or two that helps you draw closer to God, I encourage you to give it a try.  God’s blessings to you on your Lenten journey!

-Pr. Nathan

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