The Lenten Way of Doing Justice & Loving Mercy
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
During the season of Lent, we ask God to bring to light the brokenness and darkness within us. We ask God to give us an honest sense of who we are and who He is. We ask His bright light to shine into the dark corners of our whole selves.
At Citizens, one of our core distinctives is “Feasting with the Poor.” We believe that all Christians are invited to pay attention to this question from Micah 6:8 - “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” As agents of God’s restoration and reconciliation, we want to walk alongside our neighbors on the margins in a variety of mutually beneficial and transformative ways. Here at Citizens, we want to be doing justice and loving mercy, and we want to be people who are just and merciful. And so, this Lent, we’re invited to discover and tell the truth about why we do justice and love mercy, and why we don’t.
Through confession, we discover that our motivations for doing justice and loving mercy — and our reasons for not — reveal our deep brokenness; yet God has great hope and truth to speak to us about who He is and how He is inviting us to live as His just and merciful people.
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This season of Lent, God has been speaking to me about the truth behind my broken and twisted reasons for doing justice and loving mercy and my reasons for not. I’ve been asking God to reveal and clear the tangled webs of self-service and self-absorption that make me forget who God is and who I am in relation to God. As we seek to practice Lent together and allow God to bring our brokenness to light, would you ask God to speak to your heart about what is true for you?
We brokenly do justice and love mercy because…
We are trying to fix / save / rescue people.
We feel indebted to God.
It’s what good people do.
It’s the right thing to do.
We have shame about not doing enough.
We try to earn God’s approval or love.
We desire to change the world and get credit for it.
We feel obligated to help because there are so many needs.
We brokenly don’t do justice and don’t love mercy because...
We don’t want to add more pain or disruption into our own lives.
We don’t want to voluntarily enter into uncomfortability.
We're afraid that we don’t have anything to offer.
We’re afraid of mess.
We don’t know where to begin & feel overwhelmed.
It doesn’t feel important or relevant.
We are already tired and worn out.
These are difficult and messy things to sit with! Here is some good news: It is God who initiates this truth-speaking and invites us to repentance in his kindness (Romans 2:4). We can allow God to bring these confessions to light and not feel shame, because we have been freed from condemnation through Christ (Romans 8:1). We take responsibility for our broken actions and inaction by acknowledging that we cannot rid ourselves of sin nor be “better” on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). God invites us to return to Him — He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Joel 2:13). We can trust that God fully forgives us, and gives us the desire to do what is pleasing to Him (1 John 1:9, Phil. 2:13). Do you believe this good news?
Through the gospel, we see that God the Father has been lavishly hospitable towards us. In Christ’s incarnation, He came and made a home with us. And now, the Spirit of God dwells within us. As we receive who God is, what He has done, and who He says that we are, we are invited to respond. We are drawn to walk humbly with God, and it is out of this posture and practice that God gives us the desire and ability to do justice and love mercy.
It is our reorientation towards Christ that leads us to a healthy, appropriate, and joyful orientation towards others.
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So what now? What does it actually look like to “do justice & love mercy” at all, and to do justice and love mercy “rightly”? At Citizens, we believe that what we are doing is important, but that how we are postured is even more important:
‣ We are walking together, as the body of Christ, with our various giftings, experiences, struggles, and passions.
‣ We are humble, trusting that we are small yet privileged participants in the work that God is already doing.
‣ We are always learning, believing that we have never “arrived”; there’s always a next step that God is inviting us to take, and a new way that God is inviting us to be with Him and those around us.
‣ We are whole selves, receiving God and following Jesus with every part of our being: head, heart, hands, and spirit.
‣ We pay attention to the Spirit, submitting to God at work in us and through us, and allowing God to renew us from the inside out.
May God reveal to us our brokenness in the light of Christ’s grace, and rightly reorder our loves, our posturing, and our practices: first towards Himself, and then towards others.
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God, we confess that we live in scarcity and fear, not believing that you will provide for us. Remind us of your abundant and extravagant sufficiency through Christ, that we might respond in generosity and gracious hospitality towards others.
God, we confess that we try to earn your love and approval. Remind us of the security and steadfastness of your love through your creation and adoption of us through Christ, that we might respond by seeing others as your beloved image-bearers.
God, we confess that we avoid pain and pursue comfort & self-gratification. Remind us that you invite us to share in both the glory and the suffering of Christ, that we might respond by joining Him in messy yet meaningful relationships with those on the margins.
God, we confess that we believe that we own and are entitled to our privileged identities, finances, time, and resources. Remind us that all that we are and all that we have are unearned and kind gifts from you, that we would be generous stewards oriented towards others.
God, we confess that we want to be heroes and problem-solvers who get credit and recognition for our good works. Remind us of our self-serving methods of “service” and of Christ’s radical humility, that we might die to ourselves and live as Christ’s humble servants.
God, we confess that we think that we know best: in our own lives, and in the lives of others. Remind us of your sovereignty — always glorifying yourself + working for our good & flourishing — that we would submit to your ways and timing, pay attention to how you are moving, and walk in step with your Spirit.