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Hard and Holy Work

A Lenten Journey through the Book of Exodus

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Westminster John Knox Press
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Are we paying attention to the holy ground beneath our feet? Where do we see burning bushes in our world today, and what are they calling us to do? Do spiritual encounters in our lives have holy consequences in the world around us?

Many of us want to understand how to integrate our personal spiritual lives more actively with our engagement in working for justice and the liberation of the oppressed and marginalized. Hard and Holy Work provides a space for just that, helping readers participate in Lent in a new way by becoming attuned to God’s boundless presence in our world and waking up to and taking action for God’s justice through exploring stories from the book of Exodus that have inspired the work of liberation for centuries.

Pastor Mary Alice Birdwhistell and Hebrew Bible scholar Tyler Mayfield reflect on the brave action of the midwives Shiphrah and Puah and other faithful women in Exodus, Moses’ awakening to the plight of the Hebrew people, Moses’ life-changing encounter with the burning bush, the Israelites taking the risk of crossing the Red Sea, and more—alongside numerous contemporary stories—to help readers to see anew and contemplate how God is calling them to respond to what is not right in the world: racial injustice, especially borne by women of color, houselessness, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities and people with disabilities.

Lent is traditionally a time of self-reflection and action that prepares followers of Christ to walk more intentionally in the way of God. Hard and Holy Work takes readers through a unique Lenten journey, encouraging us to see those who are marginalized or suffering as God sees them; contemplate how privilege, fear, risk, and feelings of uncertainty can cloud our attention; and practice endurance for the messy middle of justice work, leaning on God’s provision and rest when the way forward is unclear.

Questions at the end of each chapter offer opportunities to discuss, reflect, and respond to God’s call through daily reflections for individuals, prompts for small group discussion, and ideas for taking action in the outward work of justice and liberation.

Access free resources, including sermon series prompts and chapter introduction videos from the authors, at to enhance your Lenten journey.

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Tyler D. Mayfield is A. B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament and Faculty Director of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is the author of Literary Structure and Setting in Ezekiel; A Guide to Bible Basics; Unto Us a Child Is Born: Isaiah, Advent, and Our Jewish Neighbors; and Father Abraham's Many Children: The Bible in a World of Religious Difference.
Mary Alice Birdwhistell is the pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Prior to coming to Highland, Birdwhistell served on ministerial staff at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, for eleven years. She received a MDiv from Baylor University in 2013.
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Hard and Holy Work...
A Lenten Journey t...
by Westminster John Knox Press
Mary Alice Birdwhistell, Tyler D. Mayfield
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Hard and Holy Work...
A Lenten Journey t...
by Westminster John Knox Press
Mary Alice Birdwhistell, Tyler D. Mayfield
List Price $17.00
Sale Price $11.05
Add to Cart

“What better Lenten discipline and exercise than to ponder well, carefully, and daily our premier text on emancipation—the book of Exodus! Mary Alice Birdwhistell and Tyler D. Mayfield have written a study guide that is hands-on, quite personal for them, and readily accessible for daily use. Surely Christians in Lent have no more important work to do than to engage the scriptural promises of and mandate to emancipation, especially in our world that is so bent on enslavement, the practice of cheap labor, and the systemic abuse of vulnerable lives. This book makes one wish: that Lent were longer in order to do more of the Exodus. This is a most winsome invitation to fresh faith.” —Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, and author of Delivered out of Empire

Hard and Holy Work is an inspired guide for brave and curious Lenten travelers yearning for liberation. Be careful, though: Birdwhistell and Mayfield’s intimate exploration of the Exodus saga refuses to skip past the perilous contradictions privileged readers are sure to encounter. Expect your journey inward with them to arrive at unexpected places.” —Amos J. Disasa, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas

“This lovely study and devotional is written with a wise and compassionate voice, bringing timely reflections on timeless Scriptures and nudging us to consider the significance of movements, moments, and our own spiritual yearnings. It is an invitation to pay attention, as the authors say, to ‘the divine possibility of the present moment.’ In a season in which our hearts are broken anew each day, may this book give us what we need as people of faith to mend and heal and move.” —Laura M. Cheifetz, coauthor of Race in America: Christians Respond to the Crisis

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