Lenten Devotional: Toward the cross

    by Katharine Spencer

    This reflection is part of our special Season of Hope Lenten devotional series. Be sure to check back each week as we share reflections from a diversity of people whose prayer and support make the mission and ministry of Lutheran World Relief possible. You can read the entire series by pressing the button below.


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    “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” Psalm 118:21-25


    On Palm Sunday this year, I will step out of the parish hall onto the moderately bustling thoroughfare of my Chicago neighborhood. I’ll be gripping the stringy stem of the palm branch in one hand, humming along to the processional hymn, and trying not to step on my fellow congregants as we parade outside, just around the corner to the sanctuary door. All the while, I’ll wonder: How do we carry it all? 

    How do my neighbors and church friends walk alongside one another, knowing what we know is at the end of this Palm Sunday processional? How do we shake the uneasiness of our daily lives, the uneasiness of our world, in order to put one foot in front of the other and move as one crowd, toward the cross and toward life risen anew?  

    Nearing the end of Lent, I look around me at those with whom I walk, and I think of others with whom I’ve walked, with whom I still walk in spirit. Five years ago, I journeyed with LWR to visit several villages in Nicaragua where farmers in the most remote regions were carrying heavy burdens. With many of the common cash crops in lower yeilds, after a series of drier seasons, and the threat of crop diseases looming, many families were suffering.  

    Our group traveled by bus, then a bit on foot, and then, quite literally, by swinging across the river to meet Eduardo and his young children and tour their cacao farm. Using the guidance of local experts working with LWR and a bit of start-up support, Eduardo had built a farm that produced a livelihood, various fruits and vegetables to eat, and a climate of abundant joy. He guided our tour around the farm, stopping often to let us smell and taste the fruits of their labors. By switching to a resilient and adaptable crop, Eduardo could feed and educate his children and employ others in the community at a fair wage. Eduardo's life has risen anew, and I experienced the resurrection by walking, even briefly, with him. 

    We can’t know what the psalmist’s words of transformation mean in today’s verse 22 (“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”) until we’ve experienced them in another person. We cannot comprehend the impact of these words that speak about a life oriented anew, until we’ve seen it in those with whom we walk the way.  

    So my friends, how do we walk alongside one another, knowing what we know is at the end of this Palm Sunday processional? How do we shake the uneasiness of the world in order to put one foot in front of the other and move as one toward the cross and toward life risen anew? 


    Dear God, be with us as we accompany our neighbors. Your abundant joy carries us through the most trying of times and through the most plentiful of times. And for that we give you thanks. 


    Katharine A. Spencer is an LWR Ambassador who currently works as the Stewardship Manager for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. In 2014, Katharine traveled to Nicaragua to see and learn about several Lutheran World Relief initiatives in the country, and subsequently served as LWR's Congregational and Philanthropic Engagement Intern.