Ash and dust. Sorrow and repentance. An invitation to remember our baptism and dwell on our own mortality. Lent can be an intimidating season.
But the solemn, 40-day period of preparation for Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday was never meant to be undertaken solo. “We may—we will—find that we can’t do it alone,” writes Julie Polter. “We need help. We need community. We need a God who is reaching toward us and isn’t afraid of meeting us at the point of our worst sin, a God who knows death intimately, and pulls us toward life.”
The resources in the list below — books, free downloads, email series, audio formats, and other media — aim to accompany us as we accept Lent’s invitation to self-examination, renewal, and yes, good old-fashioned repentance. Some of the resources zero in on a particular sin, like racism or ableism; others invite us to consider the myriad ways to renounce all the death-dealing powers of evil.
Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals, by Luke A. Powery
When we are already painfully aware of the world’s deep brokenness, we can find Lenten solace in spirituals, music forged “on the anvil of misery by enslaved Blacks,” writes Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel. But these “suffering songs” — like Lent — do not end in despair: Enslaved people “lived in their own inhumane wilderness for years, yet still sang songs of hope. From these cultural wells, we still drink.” Each of the daily readings from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday includes lyrics from a spiritual accompanied by a brief reflection, suggested scripture readings, and a short prayer.
40-Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited by Lisa E. Dahill
Julian of Norwich was an English mystic who lived in the Middle Ages. Though she’s best known for her famous phrase, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well,” there’s more to this medieval anchoress who survived a plague than cheerful optimism — including her cosmic visions of a mothering God. Suited for Lent or Advent, each of the 40 readings offers an excerpt from Julian’s writings, a short Bible verse, questions to ponder, journaling prompts, a verse from Psalms, and two prayers.
A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent, by Walter Brueggemann, edited by Richard A. Floyd
Drawing on his collected sermons and themes from his 1978 classic, The Prophetic Imagination, Hebrew Bible scholar and American theologian Walter Brueggemann calls the U.S. church to relinquish our culture’s patriotism, consumerism, violence, and affluence and return to the “alternative way” of Jesus. With a daily Bible verse, reflection, and prayer for each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, Brueggemann offers accessible insight on scripture along with a sharp critique of dominant culture — and the church’s acquiescence.
Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection, by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
Not a Lenten devotional per se, but this collection of 40-some devotions would be a good (enough) accompaniment for anyone who’s done giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, and instead wants to ditch the shiny allure of perfectionism. Each of the daily readings offers a short reflection, a prayer or blessing, followed by a “good enough” action step and a related Bible verse, quote, or line of poetry.
Resipiscence: A Lenten Devotional for Dismantling White Supremacy (three volumes), edited by Vahisha Hasan and Nichola Torbett
Resipiscence means a change of heart or an acknowledgement of a past mistake, as in: The diverse contributors to this devotional hope to prompt the church’s resipiscence for its long allegiance to white supremacy. The daily reflections each of these volumes correspond with the Revised Common Lectionary’s three-year cycle of scripture readings. Available for purchase in paperback or e-book exclusively at transformnetwork.org/movementinfaith, the devotionals are a collaborative project of Movement in Faith, Seminary of the Street, and Transform Network, a trio of organizations working to train and mobilize people of faith for social justice.
Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing, by Gayle Boss, illustrated by David G. Klein
Looking for something totally different? Try spending Lent with 25 nearly extinct animals ranging from the Indiana bat to the African elephant. Instead of the typical combination of a Bible verse, reflection, and prayer, Boss offers four stories of threatened animals for each week of Lent, along with Klein’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations. Attention to the beauty, fragility, and pain of the non-human animals who share creation with us “routes us directly to the heart of Lent … a season meant to rouse us from our self-absorption,” writes Boss.
Who says devotions need to be text-based? In this 50-page guide from The Many, a social justice-focused worship band, you’ll find poems, laments, and songs for Lent, along with prayers, short meditations, and photography. Inspired by the Exodus story of the Israelites’ liberation, The Many hopes this resource, available for purchase as a digital download exclusively at shop.themanyarehere.com, guides us “toward a new way of being in the world we’re living in right now. Toward resistance and hope. Healing and liberation.”
Disabling Lent: An Anti-Ableist Lenten Devotional, edited by Unbound
For every Sunday in Lent and each day of Holy Week, this guide offers a longer reflection on a Bible verse or passage from folks in the disabled community and their allies. The reflections are sharp and deeply personal: “If I am not careful, it is harder for me to like my body, let alone, love it,” confesses pastor and organizer Letiah Fraser on Ash Wednesday after describing how cerebral palsy affects her body. “Do not rush to offer me absolution. Not until your own ableism is acknowledged.” Created by Unbound: An Interactive Journal on Christian Social Justice, the devotional is free and available as a PDF download or audio streaming at justiceunbound.org/disablinglent; you can also check out Unbound’s Ashes to Rainbows: A Queer Lenten Devotional.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, edited by Plough Publishing
Lent is a season of restraint, but this compiled book is a Lenten (and paschal) smorgasbord, offering more than 70 excerpted readings for Lent and Easter. Inside you’ll find writings of spiritual leaders, theologians, literary favorites, mystics, and justice heroes, including Clarence Jordan, Kathleen Norris, Ernesto Cardenal, Simone Weil, Wendell Berry, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Berrigan, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few.
Harden Not Your Hearts: A Lenten Journey Into Holy Frustration, edited by Ignatian Solidarity Network
“Do not harden your hearts,” instructs the psalmist in Psalm 95:8, typically read in Catholic Ash Wednesday services. But as the creators of this free Lenten email series point out, it’s hard to avoid becoming numb these days. Through daily reflections, this series explores how to “turn our frustration into holy frustration in a way that keeps our hearts open and our action oriented to God’s voice and to one another as we seek connection and justice in our world.” Created by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a Jesuit organization that educates and forms advocates for social justice, the series features a diverse group of Catholic contributors, including Sr. Norma Pimentel, Fr. James Martin, S.J., and Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. Sign up here: ignatiansolidarity.net/lent-2022.
All resources on this list were independently selected by Sojourners’ editors. Sojourners has partnered with Bookshop.org; when you order books through the links on sojo.net, Sojourners earns a small commission and Bookshop.org sends a matching commission to independent bookstores.