Bethel Faculty Pen Daily Devotional for Lent

To highlight how Bethel incorporates its Christian roots into a vast variety of disciplines, Professor of History Chris Gehrz led a project to create Centered on Jesus: A Lenten Devotional from the Faculty of Bethel University. The project is a way to help individuals recenter on Christ during Lent.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

February 25, 2022 | 9 a.m.

“Birth and Death.”

This image of “Birth and Death,” a marble sculpture by the late Professor of Art Emeritus Stewart Luckman, was used as the cover image for Centered on Jesus: A Lenten Devotional from the Faculty of Bethel University. The piece is part of the Bethel University Permanent Art Collection. Centered on Jesus was designed by Professor of History Chris Gehrz and his teaching assistant Essie Shull ’22, who is majoring in digital humanities and history along with a music minor.

A painting of the Crucifixion by artist Steve Hawley hangs in a stairwell in Bethel’s Clausen Center, but Professor of History Chris Gehrz admits he often hurtles past it on his way to or from his office. “Caught up in my work and my worries, I rarely pause for even a moment to re-center myself before that striking image of Jesus,” he writes. With that in mind, Gehrz is leading an effort to help the Bethel community recenter before the cross during Lent.

Gehrz spearheaded Centered on Jesus: A Lenten Devotional from the Faculty of Bethel University. The collection of 47 devotionals written by 48 Bethel faculty and staff members—a pair co-wrote one piece—span from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week and Easter. Centered on Jesus is an online PDF that consists of page-long devotionals, each featuring a Bible verse, a 200-300-word reflection, and then a closing prayer. The entries cover traditional Lenten themes like sin, mortality, redemption, and salvation. 

“We invite you to join us in reading and reflecting on the Bible and praying to God. In the process, we hope you not only encounter Jesus Christ anew, but that you see more clearly how he stands at the center of our teaching and learning, our inquiry and service, and all other ‘elements of our campus life’ in all units of Bethel.”

— Professor of History Chris Gehrz writes in his introduction to Centered on Jesus: A Lenten Devotional from the Faculty of Bethel University
Gehrz describes Centered on Jesus as a chance to highlight what it means to be a university centered on Christ—a university that teaches a diverse set of subjects like accounting, education, history, chemistry, and more from that perspective. “How do we engage in disciplines that help focus our attention on who Jesus is and what he did?” Gehrz asks. “Above everything else, that’s the most important theme—how do we center on Jesus? And how do we use disciplines like reading the Bible and prayer and meditation or others to do that kind of focusing?” Gehrz also saw the project as a way to bring together faculty and staff from across Bethel’s four schools—the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), Seminary, Graduate School, and the College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS). “It’s a good way of letting people know what we do as faculty and librarians and campus pastors,” he says.

Centered on Jesus also touches on Bethel’s history at an important time. “It’s a big year for Bethel, the 150th anniversary,” Gehrz says. “I thought this might be a nice way to step back and think about who we are, why we do what we do, and share something that people might find useful.” And Bethel’s history comes up throughout the piece. A few reflections highlight how John Alexis Edgren founded Bethel shortly after the Great Chicago Fire. In his introduction, Gehrz ties prayer, study, and the practice of exploring many spiritual disciplines to the life and work of Carl Lundquist, Bethel’s president from 1954 to 1982.
“Apifany” by the late Professor of Art Emeritus Stewart Luckman

An image of “Apifany,” another sculpture by the late Professor of Art Emeritus Stewart Luckman, was used at the top of each daily devotional entry in Centered on Jesus: A Lenten Devotional from the Faculty of Bethel University. Luckman created the sculpture with the help of several of his students, including University Professor of Art Ken Steinbach. It stands at the center of Bethel’s prayer chapel by Benson Great Hall.

But at its core, Gehrz sees these daily devotionals as a piece to help people reflect on what it means to be “centered on Jesus.” Though Bethel has always been an institution built around the fusion of faith with top-ranked academics, Lent and Easter traditionally fall during a season filled with distractions for undergraduate students and faculty as they work toward finals and look ahead to summer. That’s why it’s important to stop and reflect on being a university centered on Christ. “Maybe even for us, we need moments to recenter on what that means,” Gehrz says.


Here are some examples of the diverse perspectives highlighted in Centered on Jesus:

  • Professor of English Marion Larson (CAS) uses Dante’s Divine Comedy to reflect on Ash Wednesday and the contemplative nature of Lent. “[Dante’s] imaginative journey can prompt us to examine our own hearts, to reflect on ways in which sin damages and distorts, and to receive God’s abundant grace—exactly what Lent invites us to do,” Larson writes. (Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022)
  • B.A. in Christian Ministries Program Director Laura Gilbertson (CAPS) reflects on Exodus 6:6-7, saying that God reveals Himself by liberating His people from sin and evil. “God has been faithful to liberate those who face oppression, to uphold the weak, and to welcome the lost into His kingdom,” she writes. “I think of the stories of suffering, shame, and discouragement that are felt in our Bethel community, and I pray that we are encouraged today by remembering our God who delivered His people from oppression, and Christ who suffered on the cross to defeat the power of sin and Satan.” (Friday, March 4, 2022)
  • Associate Professor of English Angela Shannon (CAS) writes about God's grace while telling the story of a personal graduation ceremony she and other faculty from the Department of English and Journalism held for a student's terminally ill mother. "Praise God that Bethel made it possible for her to fulfill a final wish," she writes. "With God’s grace, Bethel brought commencement to the family." (Saturday, March 19, 2022)
  • Professor of Biological Sciences Paula Soneral (CAS) weaves together David’s prayer in Psalm 39, “Let me know how transient I am,” and her considerations about how studying cancer highlights life’s brevity. “Like David, to live as though each day is our last one, is to use our gifts and talents as acts of worship to the One who creates and sustains our very breath,” she writes. (Monday, March 21, 2022)
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art Laura Wennstrom (CAS) reflects on Romans 8 using a quilt she made. She describes art as a kind of prayer. “I create art because the process fills me with joy,” she writes. “It brings me peace in the midst of pain. I present my work in an attempt to share the hope I find. Through this slow and redemptive process, I find I am connecting to our Creator: a God who stitched together our most intricate and detailed parts, with intention, with attention.” (Friday, March 25, 2022)
  • Seminary Dean Peter Vogt writes about how Ruth took a risk when she stays with Naomi instead of seeking the security of returning to her family after her husband’s death. “As you contemplate Christ’s death and resurrection, perhaps you might ask God to help you be bold in taking risks for Christ and use your life as a witness to who Jesus is and what he has done,” Vogt writes. (Tuesday, April 5, 2022)
  • Professor of History Chris Gehrz (CAS) reflects on Hebrews 12:1-2, the theme verses of Christianity in Western Culture (CWC), a core course taken by thousands of Bethel students since the course’s inception in the 1980s. He also pays tribute to the late Kevin Craig, a former Bethel professor who helped design the course. “Surrounded by such witnesses as Kevin Cragg, what can I do but fix my eyes on the Jesus we remember next week: the long-awaited king who emptied Himself of power and took the nature of a foot-washing, suffering servant?” he writes. (Saturday, April 9, 2022)
  • MBA Program Director Jeanine Parolini (GS) traces the roots of Maundy Thursday, which historically represents Jesus’ final Passover meal with the disciples, to Exodus 12. “In Exodus, the Israelites were charged to obey, remember, and celebrate God saving His people from judgment,” she writes. “In John’s gospel, the disciples were commanded to follow Jesus’ example of love and sacrificial service as their act of obedience: a significant step toward submission was receiving the body and blood of Christ through communion.” (Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022)
  • Associate Dean of Discipleship Ministries Dale Durie considers how the gospels offer few details about Holy Saturday, calling on readers to consider that day from the perspective of Christ’s followers. “As we read the story today, imagine that all we know are the horrors of the crucifixion (as the first followers did),” he writes. “Imagine we do not know that the resurrection is coming (as the first followers didn’t know). Then the silence and the darkness of Holy Saturday are especially piercing.” (Holy Saturday, April 26, 2022)

Study at Bethel.

With more than 100 areas of study across four schools— the College of Arts & Sciences, Seminary, Graduate School, and the College of Adult & Professional Studies—Bethel University has been a leader and model in Christian higher education since 1871. Our fusion of evangelical faith with top-ranked academics has transformed women and men, preparing them for unique callings in the kingdom of God.

Learn more