Almost the entire Lenten season occurs before the crucifixion. But Christianity Today’s 2020 devotional, The Cross: 10 Studies for the Easter Season, made it the focal point.
“Lent is an invitation for all believers to spend a period of time preparing their hearts for the great drama of our faith we walk through Holy Week,” said Kelli Trujillo, CT projects editor and the editor behind this devotional.
The Cross has been distributed to 30,000 churches and individuals. It has readings for each week of Lent, along with scripture readings centered on Holy Week and Easter and prompts for personal reflection and prayer. This series is one of CT’s twice-a-year devotions, and also includes Advent.
Trujillo began working for CT 16 years ago, when a former boss recruited her for freelance work and has worked remotely from Indianapolis since. She meets regularly with a spiritual director and has written books on spiritual formation including The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival (2007) and Surrender Your Guilt (2013).
“I tend to focus on reading and reflecting upon spiritual classics, prayer focused resources (such as The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) or the Pray-as-You-Go App), and of course primarily time spent contemplatively reading the Word of God,” said Trujillo.
Her favorite “collect” or prayer from the BCP is "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen."
Among Trujillo’s other assignments is editing he annual CT Women special issue. This fall, she will also oversee CT Pastors’ Fall Special Issue.
As she put together this year’s Lent devotional, Trujillo wanted readers to move away from thinking about Jesus’s death on the cross, as purely transactional.
Trujillo highlights the theme of “personal spiritual transformation,” citing early church father, John Chrysostom’s “Paschal Sermon” in the devotional’s introduction:
“Let no one mourn at his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death; for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.”
“When we’re working a devotional, we’re striving to offer something a bit different,” she said. “We are aiming for a theological, scriptural, and spiritual depth that goes beyond a reflection or a pleasant story.”
This year, she asked 10 writers to explore the question, “What difference does Jesus death and resurrection make in my everyday life as a Christian?” She wanted each essay to examine “theological realities of Christ’s work on the cross, and the victory he brings through the Resurrection.”
For instance, in “Teach Us How to Die,” Rachel Gilson invites readers to surrender their will to Christ and die to their fleshly desire. She calls attention to Western 21st century addictions such as money, sex, CrossFit, essential oils, and particular relationships and argues that these addictions reveal our attempt to achieve life ourselves, which isn’t possible without Christ’s death.
Gilson points to Christ’s example in the Garden of Gethsemane, citing Matt 26:39 “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but as you will.”
Jesus fights feels tempted to succumb to the flesh in the garden, but still surrenders to the Father’s will. Gilson uses this example to show us what spiritual maturity looks like—dying to ourselves. She said “there is always a direct connection between his death and ours.”
From a different context, writing from Nigeria, seminary academic dean Sunday Bobai Agang, describes the physical suffering and persecution Christians face in Nigeria today. His own cousin, who pastored a church in Kaduna was killed in front of his two children. “Faith in Christ does not shield us from suffering or pain,” he writes.
“Agang’s devotional essay is an image of what our brothers and sisters in countries like Nigeria are facing,” said Trujillo. “We have much to learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ about suffering.”
Along with Agang, and Gilson, other contributors include Joni Eareckson Tada, advocate for people with disabilities; Anthony J. Carter, lead pastor at Eastpoint Church in Georgia; Sam Chan, M.D., author of Evangelism in a Skeptical World; Nana Dolce, founder of Motherhood and Sanctity; Krish Kandiah, director of Home for Good, which helps children find homes; Kelly M. Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies at Covenant College; Fred Sanders, Associate Director of Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, and Jeremy R. Treat, a Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Reality LA, a church in Hollywood, CA.
All of this Lenten devotional content is now available for free here.
Kelsey Collister is digital marketing associate at Christianity Today.