Moving devotionally through Lent
By Kathy Noble
Ash Wednesday, March 9 this year, marks the beginning of Lent–traditionally a period of self-examination and sacrifice for many Christians as they move through the stories of Jesus' ministry into the solemnity of his last week on earth and to the joy of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
These are some of the new Lenten studies published by Abingdon Press, The Upper Room and United Methodist Communications for use by individuals and groups.
24 Hours That Changed the World studies, various authors, Abingdon [Cokesbury, www.cokesbury.com, (800) 672-1789]. Adult groups used the Rev. Adam Hamilton's book during Lent 2010. New is a seven-session study for youth and young adults. Separate studies for children ages 9-12 and 4-8 focus on the last week of Jesus' life.
Bonus: Allows an all-church study; usable for Sunday or midweek settings.
Blessings of the Cross, Robert Martin Walker, Abingdon. The seven sessions, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, explore God's hope and presence presented through the "blessings" of tests, risk-taking, thirst, blindness, death and the cross.
Bonus: Optional leader's guide with extensive background and ideas for leading each session.
Reflect and ask
Fearless, United Methodist Communications (www.umcom.org/rethinkchurch). The lectionary-based study series encourages asking questions and includes ideas for worship and living the faith. Questions encourage personal and congregational reflection and can engage people through social media. Download the study at no cost.
Bonus: Optional multimedia package with worship and promotional resources; online Bible study beginning March 14 at www.rethinkchurch.org; FaithLink Café to discuss current events and issues of faith.
Forty Days of Fruitful Living: Practicing a Life of Grace, Bishop Robert Schnase, Abingdon. Based on Schnase's Five Practices of Fruitful Living, each week's readings follow a theme, such as Christian practices, receiving God's love and loving God in return, growing in grace, serving others, fruitful living and offering God's love.
Bonus: Length is appropriate for Lent; contents are suitable for any time of year.
Hard to Dance with the Devil on Your Back, Ray Buckley, Abingdon. Seven sessions explore the power of "The Lord of the Dance" in the lives of those for whom dancing among life's trials seems impossible, those who have forgotten how to dance and those who dance the same steps out of habit.
Bonus: One reading per week; questions for discussion or reflection.
Listen, read, reflect
Shadows, Darkness and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus, Thomas R. Steagald, Upper Room Books [Upper Room Bookstore, (800) 972-0433]. Readers reflect on the Gospel reading from the previous Sunday. Each of the readings in the six chapters ends with questions or calls to action.
Bonus: Encourages a week of reflection on one scripture; can be used by individuals or groups.
Perennial prayer book
The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent, Pamela C. Hawkins, Upper Room Books. A rhythmic devotional study, the prayers for each day of the week repeat while the scripture readings change. Included are separate prayers for Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Bonus: Includes a finger labyrinth; group sessions require minimal preparation by the leader; online Lent retreat available through www.beadisciple.com.
The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.