Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Joshua 1:1-9

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying, 2 "My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5 No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
You have probably heard people call the Coronavirus pandemic “the great equalizer” because it seems to know no boundary. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, where you live, or what you do, if you have a human body you are vulnerable to the Coronavirus. 

Except, that’s not quite true. We know that the Coronavirus has disproportionately impacted people of color. It isn’t because people of color are biologically more prone to the Coronavirus. It is because we have set up medical systems that make it much harder for people of color to access healthcare. We have created housing markets that force people of color to live in dangerous places, near landfills, utility plants, and superfund sites where the air quality causes more asthma. We’ve made choices to make these neighborhoods “food deserts” where healthier foods are not only harder to access, but more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts, so it is no surprise that conditions like hypertension and diabetes are more prevalent. 

The Coronavirus may not be aware of race, but it has made obvious the racialized systems we have created make people of color much more vulnerable to illness (any illness, not just Coronavirus). 

When God tells Joshua to take the Israelites across the Jordan to the Promised Land it all seems so neatly delineated. The boundaries of the land are clear: from Lebanon to the Euphrates, from the Hittites to the Great Sea. The problem is that there are people living in this land who aren’t interested in having new neighbors. The Israelites are going to have to “be strong and courageous” to fight for their right to exist in this land.

From an archaeological perspective, there is no evidence that there were a people, led by Joshua, who fought their way into the region. In fact, there isn’t a lot of evidence that would indicate that Canaanites were very different from Israelites. They used many of the same tools and weapons, ate many of the same foods, and lived in the same ways. Maybe there were differences in the way they dressed or cut their hair or wore their beards, but this is not the kind of evidence that survives millenia in the archaeological record. Whatever their differences were, they seem invisible to us now. It makes me wonder if the ephemeral nature of a constructed boundary is worth defending with so much vitriol. How would the story be different if they could have seen the similarities between people and not the differences?

The recent White House briefing declaring houses of worship as “essential” has highlighted for me how easily we have created an invisible, constructed boundary between “essential” and “non-essential” activities. There has been lots of discussion about this boundary. We seem willing to defend these boundaries with as much strength and courage as it will take to make our point.

We are preoccupied with “essential” and “non-essential” actions and places, but unwilling to talk about how we have decided there are “essential” and “non-essential” human lives . This global pandemic has made obvious the invisible boundaries that create differences out of similarities. 

Rev. Dr. William Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina and leader and supporter of The Poor People’s Campaign asked his congregation on Easter, “If you knew you had only forty-eight hours of breath left, what kind of world would you use that breath to fight for?”

It is my prayer that we can have the strength and courage to use our breath to fight for the similarities between people rather than erecting walls of difference.
God of Moses and Joshua, give us strength in the face of enormous obstacles. Help us to bring down the walls of division that we have created and remind us that the people we oppose are your people, too. When we are frightened or dismayed remind us that you are with us wherever we go. Make us courageous when the differences overwhelm us. Amen
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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